In response to the media hype about Murray Wilson being released in Wanganui, Justice Minister Judith Collins has just introduced a new Bill allowing the imposition of public protection orders on child sex offenders and violent criminals. This will enable authorities to keep them in prison after they’ve finished their sentence – or return them to prison if they’ve already been released.
Section 9 of the new Bill says that for any application to keep someone in prison, there has to be “a very high risk of imminent serious sexual or violent offending by the respondent.” The Corrections Department assesses the risk of reoffending using a mathematical formula known as the RoCRoI (Risk of Conviction x Risk of Imprisonment). A score on the RoCRoI of .7 or above means the prisoner has a 70% risk of reoffending – which is classified by the Department as ‘high risk’. A score between .3 and .7 (30% to 70%) is considered medium risk and a score of .3 or below is considered low risk (30% or less).
This is where it gets interesting. Judith Collins, says the proposed legislation will only apply to “a very small number of extremely dangerous people” – between 5 and 12 offenders over a ten year period. Clearly maths is not Ms Collins strong point. Approximately 7,250 inmates are released from prison each year (most after serving only short sentences). In 2011, 28.9% of these prisoners were classified as having a “high risk” of reoffending – that’s a colossal 2,095 “high risk” prisoners released into the street every year. Only 5.3% had a RoCRoI score of .9 or above. That’s 384 prisoners released each year classified as “very high risk”.
What that means is that over a 10 year period, approximately 3,840 released prisoners will meet the criteria of “very high risk”. However, Murray Wilson is not one of them. Murray Wilson’s lawyer, Andrew McKenzie says Wilson’s RoCRoI is only .48 – which means he is assessed by Corrections as having a 48% risk of reoffending. That puts him in the “medium risk” category.
His true risk may be even lower than that. Victoria University professor, Tony Ward, a clinical psychologist with expertise in sexual offenders says that given Mr Wilson’s age, he was unlikely to reoffend. Prof Ward said: “The reoffending rate for very high risk people over 60 is about six per cent.” That would mean Wilson was in fact “very low risk”.
In other words, a sex offender like Murray Wilson doesn’t even meet the criteria for these protection orders and all the publicity about him being a “high risk” offender is absolute nonsense. What this seems to mean is that if these public protection orders become law, they can be applied to virtually anyone in prison – even those assessed at low or medium risk. One has to conclude it’s not crime or prisoners who are out of control in New Zealand, it’s the media and unscrupulous politicians like Judith Collins who will go to almost any length to ramp up public hysteria so government can draft ever more draconian laws. It won’t be long before we need yet another new prison.