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New Zealand Public Not as Punitive as Supposed

Embargoed until 6.0pm on Thursday, 26th October

New Zealand Public Not as Punitive as Supposed

“The New Zealand public may not be as punitive as supposed”, said Kim Workman, Project Manager, for the Rethinking Crime and Punishment project, speaking at the parliamentary launch of the project by the Minister of Justice, the Hon Mark Burton and Minister of Corrections, Hon Damien O’Connor.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment is a project aimed to increase and spread knowledge among the public about the most productive use of prison and the effectiveness of alternative punishments such as restorative justice and community penalties. It will also seek out fresh policy ideas about crime and punishment, and through structured debate, influence how the New Zealand public thinks about issues such as alternatives to prison, and community sentences.

“The common view is that most Kiwi’s want offenders punished, and a few want them rehabilitated,” said Mr Workman. “ In recent discussions with members of the public, we find it is not that simple. While almost all support the necessity of punishment, most agree that prisons do not rehabilitate. While most people like the idea of alternatives to prison, they do not really know what is currently available, and whether it works. They want more information about community sentencing, work schemes, restorative justice, and rehabilitation programs. “

“New Zealanders are in general agreement on four key ideas, regardless of where they sit on the conservative-liberal continuum. Firstly, there is general agreement that the public have a right to be protected from highly dangerous recidivist offenders. Secondly, there is a widely held view that the judicial system has ignored the rights and concerns of victims. Thirdly, they want offenders to be held accountable and responsible for their behaviour. Finally, we should make every effort to rehabilitate offenders. “

However, once you start to explore those issues with people, they are less certain about what they mean. Some of the people who want prisoners held accountable for their crime, also believe that prisoners should be ostracized, and that those who provide support for ex-prisoners are implicitly condoning their behaviour. The question then arises – how do you hold prisoner’s accountable if you don’t want to engage with them?” Again, while people want offenders punished, they agree that where an offender is mentally ill or drug dependent, prison is the last place that rehabilitation is likely to occur. At that point, people start to explore new ideas about how offenders can be more effectively dealt with.”

“Our vision is that the ‘Rethinking Crime and Punishment’ campaign will lead to a safer New Zealand where people who offend face their crime, but are also given the chance to rehabilitate and be restored as participating members of the wider New Zealand community”, said spokesperson Kim Workman.

The campaign has received wide support from churches, criminal justice professionals, and the community. A reference group has been formed to oversee the project, led by Sir Paul Reeves. Other members of the Group are:

Commissioner Garth McKenzie, Salvation Army
Judge Stan Thorburn, Deputy Chairperson, Prison Fellowship New Zealand
Michel Smith, Chief Executive Officer, CARITAS, (Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development)
Sam Chapman, Te Houhanga Rongo
Mel Smith, retired Ombudsman and former Deputy Secretary for Justice
Greg Fleming, Executive Director , Maxim Institute
Celia Lashlie, Social Commentator
Revd Dr Anthony Dancer, Anglican Social Justice Commissioner
Prof Warren Brookbanks, Auckland University
Glyn Carpenter, Vision Network NZ

Get more information at: www.rethinking.org.nz


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