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Survey Shows Public Rejects ‘Tough on Crime’ Rhetoric

Survey Shows Public Rejects ‘Tough on Crime’ Rhetoric

The recent Colmar Brunton survey on ‘Public Perceptions of Crime’ , commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, indicates that the New Zealand public have very little support for the ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric of the last decade, says Kim Workman, Spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

“When respondents were asked questions about prisons, only 5% agreed that prisons deterred people from committing crime, with the same number advocating for harsher treatment, mostly in the form of longer sentences.”

Only 6% considered that increasing rehabilitation in prisons would increase their confidence in the justice system, while almost twice that number (11%) favoured community based rehabilitation.

“A high proportion identified drugs and alcohol as major drivers of crime (88% and 78% respectively), with between 51 and 73% identifying unemployment, poverty, family breakdown, poor education and parenting. There was strong support for crime prevention, active policing, and rehabilitation; a distinct departure from the ‘tough on crime’ messages of yesteryear. “

“The survey showed that the people who knew less about the criminal justice system, tended to have less confidence in it, and that people low on the socio-economic scale, were the least trusting. On the other hand, while people said they knew more about the Police than other parts of the system, 40 – 50% failed to express full confidence in the Police. Significantly, 54% did not agree that the Police treated all ethnic groups fairly.”

The Hon Chester Borrows Associate Minister of Justice, in his foreword to the Youth Crime Action Plan, commented that “It rejects the political clamour to be the toughest on crime, instead it embraces a resolve to be smart on crime.” The results of this survey support that view.

Based on the results of this survey, politicians heading into the next election should develop a law and order manifesto which would:”

Take firm and far-reaching measures to restore confidence in the Police;

Note public support for a review of existing drug and alcohol use policy, in order to reduce crime;

Invest in the ‘Drivers of Crime’ strategy to address the causes of crime;

Invest in community-based rehabilitation;

Reduce the prison the prison population by 25%, (shorter sentences, early release measures, community alternatives);

Conduct a systems review of institutional racism in the criminal justice system;

Develop a sector-wide public information strategy, targeted at lower socio-economic and marginalised families;


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