Thursday, April 16, 2009

Boot camps and throwing kids in Police cells – like 4.6% of NZ, they don’t work

Child advocate opposes tougher laws
A tough new law may force young teenage offenders into police cells again because there will be nowhere else to put them, says outgoing Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro. The proposed new law, on which submissions close today, lowers Youth Court jurisdiction from age 14 to 12 for serious offences, facilitates the National Party's election promise of military-style "boot camps" and creates other new youth penalties. Dr Kiro said the changes threatened one of her proudest achievements as Children's Commissioner since 2003 - a project she led to reduce the numbers of young people being held in adult police cells. "I'm very optimistic about the work being done on reducing the number of young people in police cells, but with the dropping of the legal age to 12 and 13 that will put pressure on the whole system to drive up the numbers again."

Overseas, the private prison industry funds victims rights groups in the hope that the shrill debate that typically follows prompts conservative law and order politicians to pass kneejerk policy. Take the $35 million we are blowing on Boot Camps that every academic report shows don’t work, the level of evidence that runs contrary to talkback rhetoric was so immense that Paula Bennett had the nerve to recently declare that National weren’t setting up Boot camps. Look at the foaming reaction this week to Dr Pita Sharples desire to make prisons places where prisoners can be healed before they are let back out into society, NZ simply isn’t mature enough as a country to look beyond basic vengeance as a motivating factor regardless of what the research or facts show us. Many NZers want people who have wronged us to physically suffer, the concept of a loss of liberty isn’t even considered a punishment any longer and with the desire purely on punishment we start implementing policy as pointless as Boot Camps and lowering the criminal threshold on children without resourcing the places these children will be sent to meaning, as Cindy Kiro points out, more Children being held in Police cells. The utter lack of compassion and understanding (for victims as well as those broken human beings who end up in prison) feeds on each other. Those righteously outraged by the pain caused on innocent people becomes warped into something as bleak as the perpetrator, but the insanity of putting damaged individuals into violent environments that only further dehumanize them is as much a problem as the initial criminal actions that put them there. We aren’t learning from our very obvious mistakes.

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