HDPA on Little’s poor excuses on criminal justice reform

Heather du Plessis-Allan isn’t particularly enamoured with the weak excuses Andrew Little is offering up for scrapping ‘three strikes’ and reforming bail laws: Quote:

Andrew Little may well have the best intentions. He may really believe his justice reforms will fix crime.

Problem is, that’s not how it looks. It looks like he’s scratching around for any excuse to empty the country’s jails on to our streets.

Here’s why I think the Justice Minister has the best intentions.

Not long after last year’s election, I bumped into Little in a cafe along Wellington’s Lambton Quay. It wasn’t Astoria. Neither of us was in lycra.

We got talking about prisons in general and the horror of the planned mega prison at Waikeria. The supersize-me jail wasn’t Little’s idea. It was a brainwave of the former National Government. Little didn’t want to build it. But the train was already in motion.

So, Little planned to change the design. Same site, still a prison, but radically different. He said he wanted to copy a jail he’d seen somewhere overseas. It was a bit of a half and half set up. Half traditional lock-em-up jail, half more like shared flats.

Once the baddies had done their time, they could be moved to the flats. There they could learn to run their own lives again and start mixing with the real world.

That says Little’s a real reformist. Trying out something like that in bay-for-their-blood New Zealand is definitely picking the harder option. It’d be much easier to keep middle-New Zealand happy by building a mega prison and throwing in tougher sentences for good measure.

But, since that conversation, Little looks less “reformer” and more “reckless”. End quote.   

Uh huh. Very reckless, dangerously reckless in fact. Quote:

Little’s planning a lot of change. But his motivation is problematic.

Rewriting the Bail Act. Same for the Parole Act. Scrapping Three Strikes Legislation. Encouraging judges to use home detention for criminals sentenced to fewer than two years in jail.

Individually, any of these changes could be a good thing. Take, for example, the Bail Act. We have more than 2000 people on remand, awaiting trial, presumed innocent until guilty. Some of them are innocent. But, because of changes to the act five years ago, they can’t get bail.

Changing the Bail Act is one thing. Changing all of it at the same time feels desperate.

Especially when the loudest reason for the changes is a bit dodgy. Little may have some noble and progressive motivation for reform tucked away.

But, all anyone’s hearing is that it’s because the prisons are full.

This Government’s made a point of driving that home. The jails are bulging. The prison system is stretched to breaking point. We have nearly 11,000 people in jail. Our prison population is one of the highest in the OECD. In March, we only had 300 prison beds spare.

Those stats are embarrassing and cry out for reform. End quote.

The government may think that, and the liberal elites in the media, but the man on the street thinks that is just fine, and how about some extra bunks to cope. Quote:

But overpopulation as a justification for lighter sentences doesn’t sit well.

Just because it’s getting crowded in there, doesn’t mean a child rapist should get to enjoy PlayStation at home all day long. And yup, child rapists sometimes get as little as two years’ jail time.

When asked about it, Little seems incredibly naive about how dangerous this could be. He says he’d expect crims on bail, parole and home D to hang about in spots near authorities so they can swoop quickly if something goes wrong.

Something goes wrong is a nice way to put it. What we’re talking about is at best a faulty ankle bracelet and at worst a murder or rape. And all it takes is one crim on bail, parole or home D to commit murder or rape before the reforms become a failure.

Reformer or reckless? Depends on whether you think crowded prisons are a good enough reason.

Definitely reckless. What do you think?


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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.

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