Crime And Punishment Is Not An Election Issue

Do we want to reduce crime in this country? If so, electioneering politicians should butt out. ‘Getting tough’ on criminals, such a popular election year mantra, is nothing like the same as reducing crime. To mete out a tough punishment means waiting until a crime is committed – a bit late for the victim of the crime.

Crime has been trending downwards for the past decade or so. Despite that, most people having the impression that crime rates are going up. We are wasting money on more prisons – and now Boot Camps. They are just vote catchers for the National/ACT government.

The President of the Philippines has sanctioned a virtual shoot-to-kill policy for anyone who looks remotely like they might be involved with drugs. At least sixty people were shot in the past week alone. It is decimating the population of poor young males, but that’s about all.

The National Party’s recycling of the Boot Camp idea to ‘get tough’ on young criminals will be an expensive waste of time. It is calculated to cost about $150,000 per inmate to run. The idea that a tough, physical regime with strict hierarchical discipline will knock young offenders into shape is laughable. Most young criminals come from backgrounds that make Boot Camp look like a Sunday School Picnic.

Poverty is a big driver of crime. Simply giving the $150,000 to the defendant would probably prevent a lot more crime than the Boot Camp.

Alcohol is also a big driver of crime. And now since the price hikes, cigarettes are behind many dairy robberies. Perhaps the politicians should take a closer look at the alcohol and tobacco industries if they really want to get ‘tough on crime’.

Politicians get to make the laws and they get to divvy up the proceeds of taxation. They ought to provide sufficient funding for excellent health, education, and welfare systems. They ought to make sure that everyone has a warm dry house to call home, and a liveable income. They ought to make sure our laws respect and protect all people and the planet. If they stuck to their knitting there wouldn’t be much need to ‘get tough’ on anything.

Getting tough on criminals is a great sound bite for a politician, but it represents all that is wrong with New Zealand. For centuries those in positions of power have been ‘getting tough’ on anyone who stepped out of line, people who break the law, women, children, minority groups, indigenous cultures. That’s why we have a history of horrific abuse in our society, our institutions, and our families. The mentality that if people don’t do what you think they should do you ‘get tough’, and if they still don’t do what you want you get even tougher, means eventually you end up doing horrendous things to people.

So let’s leave out the tough talk this election. There are some places that no politician should go just to win votes.

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