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Sensible Sentencing Study Trip

  • August 12th, 2007

NZ travellers like to swap dreadful warnings about the hassle of clearing US border formalities through LA. It was ‘smooth as’, for all our party (Garth McVicar, Tai Hobson, David Garrett and me) and for the film team of 5.

I thought this afternoon was turning tiresome for a moment or two. First when the passport inspector wanted to know what I’d been doing for a week in Pakistan last year, then when she thought she had an even more dubious story.

“What” she asked “was a lawyer doing looking at the US criminal justice system?” when she was sure the US had much to learn, not to teach. She was stunned to hear that the US`nationwide drop in serious and youth crime from around 1993 was over 30% and that it was far better than had been acheived by any comparable country. She said “well we must of had further to improve”.  There is some truth in that, but she looked delighted to hear that the UK now has higher rates of serious and violent crime.

We probably do too. There are no widely accepted NZ/US comparisons but from victimization survey figures – the gold standard of crime measurement – it appears ours is likely to be as bad or worse than the UK, and consequently the US.

Passport control did not go so swimmingly for the young family at the next booth. A wife wearing the headscarf probably did not help. They were  at the booth for at least 1/2 an hour, the whole time our process took, including baggage collection.

I felt for all innocents who pay the price of the actions of one’s stereotyped kin. I was one last time I went through LA, though I still do not know whose misdeeds I was paying for.

I travelled (to a Parliamentary conference in Mexico) on what I thought was the privilege of an MP’s diplomatic passport and visa. My wife Catharine breezed through on her plebeian documents while I was detained for special interrogation. The passport control guy wanted to know what I’d done to offend Uncle Sam. “This is the kind of visa we’d give Fidel Castro” he said. “It only lets you go through for a few days, and you have to be in and out on exactly the days stated”.

I briefly veered toward conspiracy interpretations. Perhaps the government had organised it to cause grief for opposition MPs? I never got around to finding out.



[…] Wellington central was part of the Sensible Sentencing Trust’s deal on this (indeed, Franks traveled to the US with the trust last year). Again, because of the lack of transparency around the Trust, we […]

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