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  • rmacculloch

Why the Public wants Boot-camps for Young Offenders and how NZ's MainStream Media missed the point

The Main Stream Media has been hammering the PM & Coalition on proposals to introduce what our journos call "boot camps". OneNews located academics at Victoria University more than happy to slam National, ACT & NZ First's crime policies. They said, "The coalition has promised to pilot military-style academies despite a wealth of international & NZ evidence that boot camps do not reduce reoffending .. this is because of the limitations of punishment as a method of changing behavior .. the Minister for Children’s reported rejection of expert advice that the boot camp model is flawed & ineffective is not encouraging. So, why do we keep returning to interventions that don’t work? [Because] they appeal to politicians who want to appear tough on crime, while also saying they are encouraging rehabilitation options". OneNews & Victoria's academics just got it all wrong.

There are many theories of punishment. One is to "change behavior" - it may deter others from committing crimes and reduce re-offending (or "recidivism"). There are thousands of articles debating the relevance of such effects. But there's an entirely different view that's been around for 5,000 years - one never discussed by our Media. It's almost certainly the reason behind the boot camp proposals in NZ. It is called "retribution". As Wikipedia notes, "In all ancient legal systems, retribution for wrongdoing took precedence over the enforcement of rights. A sense of natural law demanded that a criminal should be punished with similar loss and pain as they inflicted on their victim". It's sometimes called, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". There's an overwhelming view amongst Kiwis that criminals are getting off lightly - not paying a price for their actions. The Coalition was transparent about its boot-camp proposals before the election. Most people supported them - not necessarily because they want to change behaviors, but because of the view that youth offenders who have done bad should not have life made too easy for them and not suffer consequences for their actions. Of course, every attempt should be made not to send youth offenders to prisons where they become more hardened criminals, so electronic bracelets can be a force for good. As for boot camps, they're being put in place by popular demand to provide a degree of pay-back for the hurt imposed on the victims of crime.

So if a majority of NZ'ers support such camps as a form of retribution, regardless of their rehabilitative effects, & vote for them in a democratic election, who are OneNews and its Victoria academic mates to argue against the people's will? Shouldn't our State-owned media describe all the reasons for punishment - not selectively take one view - that its only purpose is to change behavior - and use that straw man to take down the PM & Minister for Children, painting them as fools who ignore scientific evidence? If OneNews & Victoria's "criminologists" think retribution is a dated idea, then they should do a bit of philosophy & read this "thought experiment" from the Stanford Encyclopedia:

"Many share the intuition that those who commit wrongful acts, especially serious crimes, should be punished even if punishment would produce no other good. Consider, for example, sentencing a rapist who was just convicted in court. Suppose he has since suffered an illness that has left him physically incapacitated so that he cannot rape again, and that he has enough money to support himself without resorting to criminal activities. Suppose that this suffices to ensure that there is no need to deter or incapacitate him to prevent him from committing serious crimes in the future. Suppose, in addition, that you could sentence him to spend his days on a tropical island where he has always wanted to go, and where he will spend most of his days relaxing & pursuing his interests. You can, however, impose one condition on his time there: he must regularly report to a prison to be filmed in prison garb, & these videos will be posted online, sending the message that he is serving hard time for his crimes. As long as this ruse is secure from discovery, it could meaningfully contribute to general deterrence. But even if the goods normally cited by consequentialists to justify punishment - incapacitation and deterrence - are achieved, is that the sentence he should receive? Many share the intuition that there is still some reason to want him to be punished more harshly".

One News should stop its game of selectively finding one type of academic happy to slam the Coalition & play him/her like an expert witness rolled out in court to "prove" the case of the prosecution, whilst the defense gets its own experts to say the opposite. Why is One News hell bent on prosecuting the Coalition? Why is it siding with criminals?



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