Crime at an all time low – but we need another prison

New Zealand’s crime rate has dropped to an all-time low. Official figures released this week show that crime has dropped for the third year in a row. In 2010, the number of murders in New Zealand dropped by nearly a quarter over the previous year (from 65 to 46), while overall reported crime fell 6.7%.  In 2011, New Zealand’s recorded crime rate was at its lowest in 15 years, down another 5.6% on the figures from 2010. In 2012 (financial year), the crime rate dropped another 5.9%  on the previous year – taking into account an increase in the population of 0.7%. Homicide and related offending dropped by 21.5%.

The total number of offences in 2012 was the lowest since 1989 – the lowest crime rate per head of population since the introduction of electronic records. There’s no doubt about it – crime is down – and the rate  has been dropping since the turn of the century.

There has been much speculation about the cause of the turnaround. Judith Collins would have us believe it’s all due to better policing and her Government’s “get tough” policies, including the draconian three strikes law.  That doesn’t add up – because the decrease began long before National came to power. Victoria University criminology professor John Pratt would have us believe it’s all due to demographics. His point is that young people commit the most crime but New Zealand has an aging population.  That makes more sense, but no doubt there are many factors involved.

Distorted perceptions of crime

Whatever the cause and despite this dramatic drop in the figures, many New Zealanders continue to believe that violent crime is out of control. A Ministry of Justice study in 2003 found that 83% of New Zealanders held inaccurate and negative views about crime levels in society and ‘wrongly believed’ that crime was increasing. A more recent study in 2009 by Dr Michael Rowe, also from Victoria University, found an overwhelming public belief that crime has got worse despite New Zealand’s murder rate dropping by almost half in the past 20 years.

Reflecting the depth of these misperceptions, between 2006 and 2009, only 57% of New Zealanders reported feeling ‘safe’. This means that despite reductions in crime, and despite our international standing as a peaceful country, New Zealanders feel no more secure than the citizens of former communist states like Bulgaria (where only 56% feel safe) and Albania (54%). New Zealand is also on a par with Middle Eastern countries like Iran (55%) and Lebanon (56%) and African countries such as Angola (53%), Nigeria (51%) and Uganda (51%)

Many of these misperceptions comes from the so-called sensible sentencing trust which has been contributing to Kiwis’  fear of crime for over ten years.  Spokesperson Ruth Money was interviewed on TV3’s Firstline last week supporting Judith Collins decision to reduce parole hearings for prisoners who refuse to accept their guilt, or make little effort at rehabilitation. Let’s get real about this.  It’s the Corrections Department that makes little effort at rehabilitation. They refused to put Stewart Murray Wilson into a programme for sex offenders – and then blamed him for not attending.

And let’s not forget that more than 20,000 Kiwis end up in prison every year –   90% with alcohol and drug problems.  But only 1,000 prisoners a year attend treatment for their addictions. A majority of inmates also have poor literacy skills – but the Department’s rehabilitation programmes require the ability to read and write.  Kim Workman of Rethinking Crime and Punishment makes the point like this:  “Sentencing judges and the Parole Board can give directions for a prisoner to undergo a course of rehabilitation, only to find that Corrections cannot provide it. In the worse cases, the unavailability of rehabilitation affects the offender’s chances of parole.”

Sensible sentencing?

This is bizarre. The Government is willing to spend $900 million building a 960 bed prison at Wiri – even though there are currently 1,600 empty beds in the prison system – rather than provide more programmes and put more prisoners into them.  Crime is down for the third year in a row – and has been dropping for the last ten years – but for some reason we need another prison and less parole board hearings. This is sensible sentencing? Yeah right!

4 thoughts on “Crime at an all time low – but we need another prison

  1. Heya,

    Just this as I am on mailing list……. Given this I think you should provide brooking all the info you have gathered about the false stats.

    Or I could send him what you sent me???

    Let me know.

    Shan

    Like

  2. Yes. Do we need another prison? They cost more than Treaty Settlements. Maybe they are seeing as how there are so many Maori in them. It seems to me that they exist partially to mop up the social problems caused by poverty and social dysfunction.

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  3. What is the point of having a costly judicial process that passes recommendations that are not carried out during a prisoner’s sentence, it is absurd that a judge passes a sentence and makes a recommendation which in turn is denied by Corrections, it is a total contradiction of terms.
    Crime and the New Zealand populations attitude towards it are largely fueled by the aggressive policing that Judith Collins believes is effective. The police often pounce on youth making arrests which lead to convictions which should and could be waived with a caution. A typically ridiculous example of excessive policing was an article I read recently http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7769249/Police-reprimanded-over-teens-detention. Situations with the police and their inappropriate attitude towards NZ youth often provokes and worsens situations needlessly.
    Additionally the media hype and hysteria which pounces on trivial crime and or serious crime with exaggerated, distorted, inaccurate and sometimes unacceptable coverage, once they have published their report the damage is done, mostly the general public read papers and believe what they read.
    Even if crime was on the increase it still would’nt justify the excessive costs of building a new prison. It is particularly concerning that the money isn’t being channelled into what would ultimately achieve even lower crime figures. It doesn’t take much intelligence to comprehend that prevention is better than cure. This money should be spent on preventive and productive purposes to help prisoners rehabilitate and preventative counselling and educational help to those from low socioeconomic areas. Additionally all small towns and communities in New Zealand need youth funding and effective counselling services.
    Prison serves no purpose at all, it is a home from home for the dysfunctional people that had dysfunctional lives and will serve a sentence without .But it is also a home to a large majority of wayward, misguided youth who just need help and guidance and should not be locked up at all.

    Like

  4. What is the point of having a costly judicial process that passes recommendations that are not carried out during a prisoner’s sentence, it is absurd that a judge passes a sentence and makes a recommendation which in turn is denied by Corrections, it is a total contradiction of terms.
    Crime and the New Zealand populations attitude towards it are largely fueled by the aggressive policing that Judith Collins believes is effective. The police often pounce on youth making arrests which lead to convictions which should and could be waived with a caution. A typically ridiculous example of excessive policing was an article I read recently http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7769249/Police-reprimanded-over-teens-detention. Situations with the police and their inappropriate attitude towards NZ youth often provokes and worsens situations needlessly.
    Additionally the media hype and hysteria which pounces on trivial crime and or serious crime with exaggerated, distorted, inaccurate and sometimes unacceptable coverage, once they have published their report the damage is done, mostly the general public read papers and believe what they read.
    Even if crime was on the increase it still wouldn’t justify the excessive costs of building a new prison. It is particularly concerning that the money isn’t being channelled into what would ultimately achieve even lower crime figures. It doesn’t take much intelligence to comprehend that prevention is better than cure. This money should be spent on preventive and productive purposes to help prisoners rehabilitate and preventative counselling and educational help to those from low socioeconomic areas. Additionally all small towns and communities in New Zealand need youth funding and effective counselling services.
    Prison serves no purpose at all, it is a home from home for all the dysfunctional people that originally had dysfunctional lives and will serve a sentence without much help, support or guidance. It is also a home to a large majority of wayward, misguided youth who just need help and guidance and should not be locked up at all.

    Like

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