Corrections has inadvertently been set up to fail. So have the released prisoners.
However unpalatable it is, we must accept that some sex offenders appear, for reasons we still know too little about, to be permanent predators – all too often their compulsion centring on children. Experts agree on one thing: they won’t reform, or at least refrain, without adequate support. But Corrections’ record in getting adequate supervision for the riskier releases is hit-and-miss.
In theory, Corrections should apply for a permanent protection order in respect of high-risk prisoner releases, mandating 24-hour supervision. Always uncertain whether the court will grant such an extreme order, the department may too often opt for the lesser protection, which allows for only a year’s constant monitoring and is non-renewable.
Some released offenders, like the Lower Hutt man, have fallen awkwardly between the old conditions of supervised release and the new rules. After 20 years’ jail for three different instances of offences against young children, this man had been securely housed upon release under the old system, and kept under constant supervision for the past 10 years. In an unintended Catch-22, since he had not reoffended in that time, he became eligible for release under the new rules, but only under the limited supervision order conditions. This was despite still being clinically assessed as at high risk of reoffending. He will cease to be under 24-hour supervision come April 2017.
Again, this is not fair on us, and not fair on him.
Those who charge nimbyism should consider how parents feel, knowing every time members of their family walk around the neighbourhood, a paedophile may be fixating on their children.
It is beyond belief that Corrections advised parents near the Lower Hutt offender’s residence to modify their behaviour, including by moving a preschooler’s paddling pool.
Talk among MPs and local authorities has centred on the “Beast of Blenheim” solution devised for Stewart Murray Wilson, whereby high-risk releasees could be accommodated in separate housing within the grounds of a prison or other secure institutional property. Secure, sheltered hostels are another constructive suggestion.
It’s true that children are at statistically higher risk from family or friends than from a stranger. But that hardly lessens society’s duty to manage known risks.
In the end, the solution is to create a special facility where the worst of the worst are not in prison yet not really free, and the remainder are secretly inserted as our neighbours with fingers crossed that all will go well.
It is more or less what is happening now. Except our attempts to inform key people in the community is sometimes the same as telling everyone. So either we need more secrecy, or we need more openness through a public offenders register.
Or, we just deal with the fact that some predators will need moving a few times before a community is found where he can be slotted into without anyone really noticing.
Who would want to be Corrections? They get no credit all the placements that have gone well, but they will be crucified for the single one that goes wrong.