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NZ First’s short, sharp prison sentences “yesterday’s ideas”

NZ First’s short, sharp prison sentences “yesterday’s ideas” says Rethinking

New Zealand First’s intention to bring in short, sharp prison sentences with hard labour to deter offenders, are yesterday’s ideas, says Kim Workman, Spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment. He was referring to Winston Peter’s opinion piece with Radio Live (14 Feb) “It is a flawed policy for two reasons. “

First, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that it won’t work, and will cost the taxpayer. Second, the New Zealand public has moved on from the ‘tough on crime’ policies of 7 or 8 years ago, - the public know that ‘short sharp sentences’ are in the same category as ‘boot camps’ - we instinctively believe they should work, but the evidence tells us otherwise.”

“The New Zealand public are wising up. A recent Ministry of Justice survey into ‘Public Attitudes to showed that only 5% of respondents 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. The public taste for punishment is waning.”
“One of the main reasons for the change in public attitude is that people now understand that these ideas don’t work. New Zealand introduced the three month short, sharp sentence idea in 1961 with Detention Centres and again in 1978 with Corrective Training. Prisoners ran everywhere on the double, worked in the forestry all day, and were exposed to tough discipline and education. They went into prison as unfit young criminals and left as angry, fit young criminals. A 1983 Department of Justice study showed that 71 percent of trainees were reconvicted within a year of release.”

“There has been a lot of research into whether harsh sentences deter offenders, and there is no evidence to support it. What the evidence does show is that offending may well increase, as offenders who serve harsh sentences find it difficult to re-adjust to community living once released.”

“Short sentences for offenders are also a bad investment. Recent research by the Washington State Policy Institute, a world leader in assessing the cost effectiveness of criminal justice programmes, shows that imprisoning low- and medium-risk people provides a negative benefit-cost ratio. In other words, it increases the likelihood of offending rather than reduces it. “

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