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Government Chokes the Voice of Young People on Policing Bill

Government Chokes the Voice of Young People on Policing Bill

Government’s decision to take the Policing (Storage of Youth Identifying Particulars) Amendment Bill under urgency has effectively silenced the voice of young people on legislation which has the potential to impact significantly on their lives, said Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

“I can understand why government didn’t want to take this legislation through a democratic process. We are hearing a whole lot of stories from young people about abuse of Police powers, and in particular, the high incidence of ethnic profiling. The last thing government needs right now, is to call for public submissions, and have these stories in the public domain.

When the Pakeha mates of a young Maori man won’t let him drive their car because they are 3 – 4 times more likely to be stopped by the Police, it says something about the deteriorating relationships between Police and Maori youth.

Legislation of this kind has the potential to shift the Police away from their role of preventing crime, to one of collecting data about young people who may or may not offend in the future. The process of data collection can of itself, lead to a hardening of attitudes toward the Police, and an increase in offending.

Three months ago, Rethinking Crime and Punishment called a meeting of young people (16 to early 30s), to discuss the establishment of a Young People's Forum. We asked 12 to come – 35 turned up. They were concerned that the voice of young people is absent from the conversation about crime and justice.

Despite the fact that young people are the most involved in the criminal justice system - both as victims and offenders – they are being excluded from the debate. The exclusionary behaviour of government and the Labour opposition is an example of why young people feel they are excluded from the democratic process.

A Young Person’s Forum has now been established with the purpose of informing, engaging and empowering young people to become actively engaged in issues of crime and justice. It meets monthly with the objectives of:
• Networking with other young people who are interested in issues of crime and justice;
• Learning from others (particularly other young people) who have different knowledge, skills and experiences
• Collectively developing and promoting an informed ‘youth voice’ on criminal justice issues
• Having a say in public and political discussions about and the development of the criminal justice system
• Thinking critically, asking questions and challenging the status quo
• Engaging other young people in the crime and justice discussion.

Plans are in train to hold a Young People’s National Summit on Crime and Justice in February 2012.

ENDS

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