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Prisoners have earned their places

There are 10,000 in prison – all have richly earned their place there

18th September 2017

Labour’s Kelvin Davis has said he wants to release 3000 of the 10,000 persons currently in prison. That begs at least two questions: who are the 3000 he wants to release, and why does he think those people don’t belong in prison? Research by the Sensible Sentencing Trust based on information obtained under the Official Information Act show what a ridiculous and ill-informed policy this is.

“On average, persons imprisoned in New Zealand – whether sentenced prisoners or those on remand – have 46 criminal convictions and have appeared before a Judge numerous times before being sent to prison” says Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar in an opinion piece published today.

“Yes, you read right – 46 prior occasions where the prisoner offended, a complaint was made, evidence collected, the prisoner caught and convicted, and finally sentenced, usually not to prison” said McVicar.

“New Zealand judges are not known for their tough on crime attitude, despite the bleatings of the liberal elite about our so called ‘punitive society’. Just the other day a man with a violent history who seriously assaulted his pregnant partner – punching her and dragging her down the road by her hair – was sentenced to what is effectively six months in jail. Six months in jail for an assault on a pregnant woman? Is that being tough? We don’t think so” McVicar said. “And cases like that are all too common.”

“So who are the 3000 Kelvin Davis and Labour want to release? The murderers who on average serve 12 years of a so called ‘life’ sentence? The burglars and home invaders who official figures show are rarely caught, and serve a fraction of the 10 year maximum when they are? The aggravated robbers gutlessly targeting hard working shopkeepers and others just trying to make a living? Mr Davis needs to spell out just who he wants to let out” McVicar said.

“Once the serious violent and sexual offenders are taken out – presumably even Labour doesn’t suggest releasing them – that’s 71% of the prison population. That leaves 29% of the muster, or 2900 of the 3000 Mr Davis wants to let out. So what are those 2900 in prison for? Around 12% of the total prison muster is there for serious drug convictions, mainly manufacturing, importing and dealing in P, a drug which is a scourge on our society. We don’t imprison people in New Zealand for smoking cannabis, despite what Labour leader Jacinda Ardern might think” said McVicar.

“The remaining 17% of the total prison population are the ‘rats and mice’ in statistical terms; 5% for repeat serious driving offences, 3% here and 1% there for weapons offences, arson, neglect or ill treatment of a person, often a child. Perhaps Mr Davis thinks all of them should be let out? And they are only one third of the lucky 3000 he wants released”

“We would be much more supportive if Labour said they wanted to reduce offending by 30% - the sexual and violent offending, and shameful level of family violence in this country. That would be a laudable goal” said McVicar.

“But Labour doesn’t want to reduce offending by 30%, just the prison population. Mr Davis and his party needs to tell the voters which 3000 people he wants to release – what type of offenders, and how many there are of each category. As things stand all we know is Labour wants to release 3000 prisoners, each of whom a Judge has – finally – sent to prison. We say that is an appallingly ignorant and misconceived policy” said McVicar


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