Thursday, December 2, 2004

More jails will create more crime says expert

NZ: Once a world leader in restorative justice, New Zealand is regressing by locking more people up for longer, visiting expert Sir Charles Pollard says.

The former chief constable of Thames Valley Police in England, who will speak at a restorative justice conference starting in Auckland today, said it was concerning that four new prisons were being built and others extended to cope with longer terms under the Sentencing Act 2002 and more arrests.

"I think New Zealand is taking a step backwards, actually. If what you are doing is building more prisons that actually is the most guaranteed way to increase the rate of crime," Sir Charles, who is in Wellington, said yesterday.

Prisons were crime colleges for people who would eventually be released.

"What you've got coming out are people who now - if they were damaged before - are seriously damaged now."

It was understandable the Government had toughened sentencing laws because of public anger over crime but Sir Charles said restorative justice - where the victim, offender and government agencies together decided a punishment and rehabilitation plan - was effective and not a soft option.

In Essex, in England, only 7 per cent of young offenders passing through a restorative family group programme had reoffended within two years, compared with 69 per cent in a control group.

Going through the court process meant an offender let his lawyer take charge and did not need to face up to the offence.

"To actually face the person you've harmed, the person you committed the crime against, is far tougher."

Sir Charles, who is a Youth Justice Board member in Britain, said restorative justice was satisfying for victims.

"They are quite frightened after a crime. They have this idea of a great big person, someone who looks violent, staring eyes, then they see this scruffy little kid, age 12, pathetic, had no chance in life."

Restorative justice for youths looked at underlying factors, such as inconsistent discipline, lack of boundaries, poor performance at school and peer pressure.

Sir Charles believes restorative justice is also effective for adult offenders and serious offences. In these cases it would complement, rather than replace, prison sentences. "The more serious the crime the better it works."

By MAGGIE TAIT posted 2 December 04

Community Challenges in Justice
Professor of criminology at Victoria University, Philip Stenning, recently visited the Napier Public Library to view the Robson Collection, which is a special collection on criminal, restorative and social justice based on the philosophy of "developing communities not prisons".

Restorative Justice and the Law
To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe."-- Marilyn vos Savant.

The Long Trail to Apology
Native America: All manner of unusual things can happen in Washington in an election year, but few seem so refreshing as a proposed official apology from the federal government to American Indians - the first ever - for the "violence, maltreatment and neglect" inflicted upon the tribes for centuries.

Restorative Justice Practices
Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation and Other Indigenous People of North America. This is part one in a series of articles about restorative justice practices of Native American, First Nation and other indigenous people of North America. The series is not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather a broad thematic overview. A related eForum article, "The Wet'suwet'en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program: Restorative Practices in British Columbia, Canada," can be read at:

That the forms of restorative justice and mentoring that are so successful in reducing social unrest be adopted immediately, running parallel to imprisonment until the public feels safe without prisons.

Government justice not personal justice
Mr Brett Collins of Justice Action said, "Victims should be looked after properly by implementing restorative justice measures and victims should be compensated for their pain and suffering. " However prisoners are entitled to serve their sentences in peace and privacy as well."

Sentencing: Violent crime and practical outcomes
In addition introducing restorative justice programs giving the offender a chance to interact with the offended person if they wish and visa-versa. People are not "dogmatic" therefore should be given a second chance opposed to Life means Life!

Sentencing reform
Beyond Bars is making a submission (with a focus on alternatives to custody) to the sentencing council. "We should consider the alternatives which take into account victims' interests and involvement. Restorative justice. Also mentoring as a positive form of social support, coupled up to restorative justice (as the punishment) to satisfy those who demand it."

Australian prisons are fast becoming the new asylums of the third millennium. The prison industry is booming, while Australia spends far less on mental health services than similar countries.