This is the personal blog of Roger Brooking. But if you’re interested in contributing an article call 04 475 9420.
I have been working as an alcohol and drug counsellor in Wellington for the last ten years. Most of my clients are in the justice system – which is not surprising considering that 80% of crime occurs under the influence of alcohol and drugs
During this time I have discovered that the courts repeatedly fail to mandate or encourage offenders into treatment – and as a result they relapse, re-offend and frequently return to prison. I have also found there is very little rehabilitation available in prison and even less support when prisoners come out. This situation has been so frustrating to me that I have written a book about it.
Flying Blind describes the way in which groups like the so-called Sensible Sentencing Trust have dominated public debate about justice and sentencing issues in New Zealand. Victoria University criminologist Prof John Pratt has described this manipulation of the media as political populism and says it has driven competition between the major political parties in Western democracies to appear tough on law and order. This has led to increased use of remand, longer sentences and the building of more and more prisons – the last Labour Government built four, National has already built one at Mt Eden and is planning another at Wiri. As a result, New Zealand now has the second highest rate of imprisonment in the West; we lock up nearly 200 people out of every 100,000 of our population.
In the process, little attention is paid to addressing the drivers of crime or providing rehabilitation. Flying Blind describes the political and systemic obstacles which stand in the way of early intervention and effective rehabilitation – and keep offenders locked into a vicious cycle of crime.
Flying Blind also points out that using prison as the default strategy for dealing with crime is ineffective and imposes an unacceptable financial burden on the taxpayer. New Zealand is facing the biggest financial deficit in its history and we need to find a new approach. This blog provides a vehicle for comment on these issues.