Guest Post – The Fight for 3 Strikes – and Kim Workman

Another in the continuing series of guest posts from David Garrett.

Today’s is about the fight to bring in three strikes and the involvement of Kim Workman in opposing that.

After the 2008 election the National Party and ACT entered into a confidence and supply agreement. In return for ACT’s support and votes, we got several undertakings from National: the top of the list was an agreement  to support ACT’s “three strikes” (3S) Bill at first reading so it could   be referred to a Select Committee for submissions and further study. Thereafter, the best we could get from them was a commitment to give full and fair consideration to the evidence we showed them, and submissions on the Bill.

It became my job to persuade the Nats to support it further. Most if not all of the leftie commentators  sneeringly predicted that the Bill would die in Select Committee and never be heard of again.  I was determined not to let that happen. Kim Workman quickly became the leading campaigner against the Bill. I was soon to find just how dishonest the left could be in trying to defeat what they  vehemently disagreed with.

Workman’s first tactic was to do exactly what had been tried – and failed – in California;  to make outlandish and ultimately totally inaccurate  predictions of  huge costs and vast increases in prisoner numbers as a result of 3S being implemented.  With hindsight, it is a little surprising that Workman didn’t  learn from the  Californian experience almost twenty years earlier.

He wasted no time  beginning his disinformation campaign. On 13 November 2008 – even before the election – he predicted that if 3S passed we would have an increase  of 7 to 10,000 prisoners “within a very short time.”  In other words, he predicted a total prisoner muster  post-3S of about 20,000.  When pressed, he later defined “a very short time” to  mean within two years of the Bill’s passing. It is pertinent to note that the second anniversary of the Bill’s passing is nigh, and far from an increase of seven or ten thousand prisoners, the prison population has fallen.

He also made the same dire predictions as had been made in California of increased offending as a result of 3S, and assaults or even murders of police officers by  “strike” offenders desperate to avoid arrest. It is fair to note that we do not yet have second strike offenders on the street who may fall into that category – we have three second strikers so far, and all three are currently in jail. That notwithstanding, there is thus far no evidence at all of any of the 900 odd first strikers killing or maiming police in order to avoid arrest for their next crime. That is no surprise, since despite the same dire predictions being made in California, homicides on police have declined  in that state since 3S was introduced.

Workman’s next tactic turned out to be a godsend. In a move  which I later understood to be an attempt to neuter the Bill completely, the Nats – or more specifically Simon Power – insisted that there be a “qualifying sentence”;  in  other words to count as a “strike”, an offender not only needed to be convicted of a  strike offence, but ALSO receive a “qualifying sentence” of five years or more in prison.

Workman quickly lept into action, making an OIA request which asked how many of the 420 persons in prison for murder at that time would have been unable to commit the offence because they were incarcerated on second strike? The answer came back…None.  Not one killer would have had two strikes in their past – most of them would have had none – if  a “strike” required a sentence of five years. It is important to note that many had dozens of convictions – just no “strikes” under the  definition Power wanted.

I already knew from my own research that a “qualifying sentence” – of whatever length – would neuter the Bill completely. Workman gleefully trumpeting the results of his OIA request  – and the leftie media equally gleefully reporting it –  made my job of convincing the Nats that a qualifying sentence was a bad idea all the easier.

Around this time, it was amusing to note in Workman’s own newsletter some bewilderment that the Nats’ support of the Bill to Select Committee but no further  had now morphed into something much more. It was around this time that those opposing 3S really pulled out the stops, and began lying in earnest.

The Howard League for Penal Reform imported a prison chaplain from California to talk up the evils of 3S – without bothering to mention that the New Zealand version was very different from that of California’s, and the horror stories of felons going to jail for life for minor thefts simply could not happen here. At a series of meetings around the country, the prison chaplain – a Rev. Ron Givens – told outright lies, such as that the decline in crime in California had begun in 1986, seven years before 3S was passed.  A simple look at the graphs of offending derived from California Justice Department figures showed this to be utter crap – crime peaked in the state in  1991, and rapidly decreased after 1993, when 3S was passed.

Lately, Workman has acknowledged that both offending and prisoner numbers have fallen, despite his dire predictions to the contrary two or three years ago. Has he ever acknowledged he was wrong, or admitted that he simply made numbers up? No prizes for guessing the answer.

Now he has changed tack again – ironically also using failed tactics from California. According to Workman – and sadly certain weasels even within the National government – crime was actually falling anyway prior to  2008, and 3S has nothing to do with it. They should go back and read their own contemporary  press releases and campaign material. I have.

Next: Correlation and causation – sentence enhancement and offending

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.