Recently, the government announced their goal of reducing prison numbers by a third. Like many New Zealanders, I am not explicitly pro-incarceration – in fact, in many cases, I fall at the rehabilitation end of the spectrum if and when the circumstances are appropriate.
But I do have serious concerns about this announcement. The government’s headline target to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent doesn’t stack up without new initiatives or targets to reduce crime.
The previous National government took public safety concerns seriously, and tightened up our bail laws in 2013 to make it harder for serious offenders to be granted bail.
We also implemented the Three Strikes Law, which provides judges with the ability to put the worst offenders away for the maximum sentence without parole on their third conviction. This law is reserved for the most serious and recidivist offenders.
Labour wants to reverse these changes, as they blame them for the increase in our prison population. The rise is the prison population is not because of tougher bail laws or Three Strikes – it’s because of the actions of serious criminals who are being dealt with seriously by police and judges.
It’s worrying that the government seems to think making it easier for offenders to get out of prison or harder to get put there in the first place is the answer to achieving its goal.
In my opinion, the true measure of success should be reducing the number of victims, not the number of prisoners.