Howard League for Penal Reform

Illiteracy and crime: Fat Tony explains

Fat Tony AKA Mike Williams

Mike Williams the CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform presented the below power point at the Act Party conference on the weekend. In my write up about his presentation, I was vague on some statistics so I am grateful to now be able to share with you all exactly what he showed us all. These are the facts about the link between illiteracy and criminality, the keys to reducing reoffending and some real life success stories.

In support of the kind of work that the Howard League does Act has released a new “carrot policy” to encourage criminals to upskill. Act call it “rewarding self-improvement.”  The policy would not apply to the worst violent or sexual offenders. Prisoners would be able to earn a reduction of their sentence by successfully completing literacy, numeracy and driver licencing courses.

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ACT – tough on crims? Not anymore

Yesterday ACT and Mike Williams teamed up to announce it was going to cuddle crims instead.

Prisoners would have their time in jail slashed if they complete literacy, numeracy and driver licensing courses, under new Act Party policy.

Former Labour president Mike Williams, now with the Howard League for Penal Reform, strongly backs the policy – and says Corrections chief executive Ray Smith has expressed enthusiasm.

Act leader David Seymour announced the radical new policy in his keynote speech to Act’s annual conference in Orakei today.

Eligible inmates would earn up to six weeks for every year of their term, depending on the types of courses completed. For example, a person sentenced to three years in prison could get up to 18 weeks deducted from their time in jail.

Act is known for its hardline law and order policy, and was behind the introduction of the controversial three-strikes legislation.

Today’s policy is a significant departure from that approach and focuses on rehabilitation.

I have no problem with rehabilitating those who are capable and willing.  There is no point in destroying more lives for the sake of it.   But it does leave ACT’s messaging confused.

With prisons overflowing and crime up, the electorate wants to hear how more of them are going to get locked up.  And that’s traditionally the area ACT have been strong.  Three Strikes for burglary would be welcomed, if not Three Strikes for anything that has a minimum two year jail term.

Almost 65 per cent of the men and women in prison fall below NCEA level one literacy and numeracy.

A keynote speaker at the Act conference in Auckland’s Orakei is former Labour Party president Mike Williams.

Williams is now the chief executive of the New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform, which runs literacy programmes that aim to get prisoners to a competent reading level, enabling them to read books to their children, take driver tests and have a better chance of finding work when they are released.

Last year Seymour joined Williams and Bill English at a prizegiving ceremony at Rimutaka Prison, where inmates who had completed the league’s literacy programme and learnt to read spoke about what it meant to them. Tutors who volunteered in the programme also spoke.

“He came to me afterwards and said, why aren’t more prisoners doing these courses,” Williams said. “I said, well there’s just not the demand. And he said, how would you create the demand?”

Seymour then developed the policy, which Williams said the Howard League strongly supported.

Once again, no problem in principle.  But there is an opportunity cost to this.  And the price ACT is paying is that they are now no longer tough on criminals.   Fake that you’re no good at reading or maths, do some tests and presto – time off your sentence.

Williams said the policy could save the country millions of dollars, given it cost about $2000 a week to keep someone in jail. He said it could cut reoffending by as much as 50 per cent.

Those who want to and can should get the opportunity to so what it takes to stay out of jail.  And if that requires government help, I’m good with that.

Strategically, in an election year, I don’t see this as smart ACT policy.  Not when crime is up, police are straining to keep up, and the public are sick to death of pandering to criminals.

 

– Nicholas Jones, NZ Herald

What Mike Williams and David Seymour have in common

Mike Williams the CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform spoke at The Act Party conference yesterday. As an ex-president of the Labour party and also their past campaign manager of four elections, I didn’t expect him to share any common ground with a party like Act. After all one of Act’s flagship policies was the three strikes legislation which is all about the stick and deterrence.

Mike Williams or Fat Tony as Cam has always affectionately called him, made a strong case for the power of volunteering where the cost to the taxpayer is zero. More to the point he illustrated examples where the cost of removing barriers was insignificant compared to the savings to the taxpayer when an offender was removed from both the justice system and the benefits system.

The barriers he mentioned were:

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Serco suspension a win for the government

This whole story was pushed out by the unions when they needed a circuit breaker to get Labour’s Asian Bashing off the front pages.

And although it’s delivered on that, the good news is that Serco have been found wanting, and the Government gets to clean it up before it gets out of control.

The Corrections Department will step in and put their own management team into the privately-run Serco prison in Mt Eden following serious allegations of assaults and other inappropriate behaviour.

The announcement was made at a press conference this afternoon following a meeting between Corrections chief executive Ray Smith and the Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.

Mr Smith says the department has invoked the “step in” clause of the contract, and says a potentially substantial financial penalty may be imposed on Serco following the spate of violent incidents at the remand prison.

The clause allows the department to insert its own prison director from Tongariro and a “crack team” of 20 from Corrections team from across the country to oversee the daily running of the prison, however, the Serco staff will remain onsite.   Read more »

Did Mike Williams visit Dotcom in jail?

the tipline

A very good source has revealed that Mike Williams had a meeting with Kim Dotcom while he was incarcerated in Mt Eden.

I understand that the meeting was to solicit a donation to The Howard League for Penal Reform in order to pay for the salary, secretary, car and expenses for Mike Williams to carry out his work for The Howard League for Penal Reform.

That makes the revelations being spruiked very hard by Labour very interesting because the Mike Williams who visited Kim Dotcom in jail is the same Mike Williams who was also the Labour party president, and the same Mike Williams who had 5 board appointments under Labour….and the same Mike Williams who flew to Melbourne to dig up a scandal against John Key and the very same Mike Williams who has been commenting in the media about all of this fuss and bother.

This is of course the same Mike Williams who asked Owen Glenn for a job, and the same Mike Williams who approved the Owen Glenn donation to Winston Peters.

What other things were discussed by Mike Williams and Kim Dotcom during this visit in prison….of course the visitors records will clearly clearly show the visit, prison tend to keep records like that….along with video footage.

 

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