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Labour Green to ‘rewire’ criminals

  • May 2nd, 2013

I had to set aside time yesterday to defend our three strikes law. Jim Mora's Panel called for background, then Back Benches (for Prime) needed someone to balance what they expected from their MP Panel on the topic last evening.

I was saddened by Damien O'Connor's wetness under questioning from Wallace Chapman. He resisted committing to repeal the three strikes law, but nevertheless parrotted the Green MP's empty pieties. People  look to him for a residue of  West Coast working class common sense in his effete party (a 'gaggle of gays and unionists' as he called it) but how disappointing for them if Damien is the working class champion.

I was surprised by Peter Dunne's similar flaccidity, until we relflected on his electoral position. His Ohariu seat is vulnerable if National permit a strong candidate to stand. He will be trying to inherit Charles Chauvel's supporters.

Labour justice spokesman Andrew Little is reported as hostile to mandatory sentencing law. Though he has avoided committing to repeal three strikes his language is revealing.

"An offender like Elijah Whaanga needs to pay his dues to the community for his offending, but the community's best interests would be best served by him getting help to rewire his brain and change his attitudes."

The academic left have an astonishing faith in their power to "rewire" our brains. They pretend to think it is just a matter of 'appropriate' social adjustments. But it is rare for them to be so blunt as to admit they expect to rewire people. To avoid being mocked for callous fantasy Andrew must be relying on the media consensus never to ask obvious and hard questions.

No-one knows how to do the "rewiring". If we did it would probably require so many skilled "resources" (i.e. people) with such deep and sustained committment, and such authority over the criminal families that it is a pipedream for a liberal state. Perhaps individual reformations can be acheived by evangelical religious groups, and a few charismatic secular people in "pilot programmes". But they'll probably be too 'authoritarian' for Andrew Little. Groups with empirically successful ways of 'rewiring' are usually pilloried by left theologians for 'cultural imperialism'. Even if we knew how to do it, 'rewiring' the children of our known 600-1500 state identified criminal families to have normal middle-class propensities to being law-abiding, would probably require removing the children. Though they have been calculated as being likely on average to each cost society over $6m under current policies, there is no politically feasible programme known or likely to do the job of changing their direction.

Labour Greens claim moral superiority over ordinary people (including many of their own voters) on criminal justice with childish non-sequiturs, such as how much better it would be if we could replace prison with  "rehabilitation" or "support" or "interventions" (invariably  "early"). Of course it would be better. Tony Blair captured it in his winning election slogan – "Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime". But there is no authoritative agreement or even clear theory on 'the causes of crime'. And no demonstrated politically feasible  way of removing even the few causes on which there is a measure of (unscientific) consensus.

The left think they know the causes  – selfish rich people, not enough social workers, hard hearted bosses who won't employ human refuse. Sadly, research does not supports socialist pop theory. The research is deeply confounding. Class war and poverty explanations for crime are discredited from both international comparisons as well as inter-period research within countries. Low self esteem theory was debunked nearly 20 years ago. Sadly for the criminologists, Bill Clinton's tough policing and mandatory sentencing policies, appropriated from the Republicans, have been followed by long years of rapidly reducing crime levels in the US.

There is next to no evidence that governments or anyone else know which nicer 'interventions' will reliably rewire or re-educate or resocialise, or socially adjust, or rehabilitate criminals. Or even anti-social adolescents in "troubled"/"dysfunctional"/"disadvantaged" (take your pick of euphemism for bad) so-called families.  It is breathtaking that politicians so fond of the 'precautionary principle' can get away with advancing well intentioned fantasy as a substitute for the well-proven shame and custody responses to crime.

Imprisonment clearly protects. It deters many. It offers retributive justice for victims, and sometimes it rehabilitates.

Labour Greens can persist with  fantasy responses on law and order issues only because of the free pass they get from journalists who share their religion. They are all accustomed to indifference to the suffering of thousands of unnecessary victims, disproportionately the poor and the weak. "Innappropriate" postures on issues thought to signal compassion (or its absence) to the "marginalised" matter far more to them than callousness about suffering of far more numerous but unfashionable bourgeois and proletarians. They have always believed that the proletariat are ennobled by their suffering. The ends justify the means. So deliberately choosing to leave thugs in the community is OK because the innocent victims are just the collateral damage of  re-educating all into being better people. I think that many left politicians feel that  victims are not truly innocent anyway, because too many victims believe in innappropriate things like their right to retributive justice.

I've heard the contempt of left politicians for their own voters behind closed doors. I do not think it far-fetched to speculate that their near universal hostility to victim advocacy comes from a private conviction that their own voters (too often 'red-necks') deserve to suffer until they are more  suitable to live under the compassionate moral guidance of their political superiors, free of their primitive belief in the need for justice to be straightforward.

Our grandparents lived with a fraction of our crime risk, in a society of greater inequality, and genuine poverty (not the current fake version where the poorest are the fattest and have to work the least). So when will the media demand that the left explain their hostility to our grandparents' straightforward justice – swift, certain, public, unapologetic, deterrent shame for wrongdoing. Swift certain public unapologetic prices for offending, calculated to show that crime will not pay, and that victims can count on their community ensuring that it will not.

So tell me Damien, and Peter – just when and how will this rewiring start? Who will do it, with whose army?


  • Brett Hudson
  • May 2nd, 2013
  • 10:58 am


Quite surprised that Peter Dunne leapt upon your honest admission that “correlation is not causality” to state that a lack of hard evidence to prove 3-strikes works is exactly the reason it should be repealed, yet he had just a few minutes earlier justified the banning of K9 synthetic cannabis on the strength of anecdotal information from Police in Christchurch.

[I’m not saying the K9 ban is wrong, but that he reasoning is wholly inconsistent.]

  • AngryTory
  • May 3rd, 2013
  • 3:40 am

Well here’s the question for you: where do we borrow the $2million it will cost to feed, house, no doubt educate and provide medical for all the “three strikers” who will be inside for 20 years each.

NZ can’t afford it, and high-value Kiwis are sick of paying for everything for everyone else!

Three strikes is good, but then $2million of free welfare is not!


Angry  Tory

Im not sure whether you are saying that we’d be better off if they were left free, but the best NZ examination of the typical costs inflicted by a career criminal each year placed it at over three times the cost of imprisonment, per prisoner.

And we can count on deterrence of some who will not become career criminals as well.

Seems a reasonable investment to me

  • peterquixote
  • May 5th, 2013
  • 5:14 pm

Yes, I still think judges should be left with some discretion. This is should the maximum available sentence be imposed after three strikes. Is this NZ law as in California where the situation is crazy.
Perhaps after two strikes the punishment could go up, and three strikes still within Judges jurisdiction.
Many repeat offenders have deep problems. Surely it depends on the welfare of the community. I am against regulating judges too much.

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