Boot camp tried and failed

  • Phil Goff

Calls to reintroduce boot camps for young offenders are recycling ideas that have been tried and discredited in the past, says Justice Minister Phil Goff.

"The boot camp idea is not new. It was tried for 21 years as Corrective Training and failed spectacularly, with a 94.5 per cent re-offending rate. Experience has proven it to be ineffective and a waste of money," Mr Goff said.

"Those advocating a return to such policies must either be unaware of the facts or ignoring them for reasons of political expediency. Bumper sticker policies that have proven not to work don't make our society safer.

"Because it was such an abject failure, Corrective Training was scrapped by the Sentencing Act 2002, but it had been disproved several years before that.

"Judges had already given up on it as an effective option. In 1986, 910 people were sentenced to Corrective Training. By 1999 that had dropped by two-thirds to 336. In July 2000, there were just 28 males serving the sentence.

"The main effect of boot camps was not to straighten trainees out but to produce fitter criminals.

"New Zealand already has a tough sentencing regime, with the second highest imprisonment rate in the western world. More people than ever are being sent to prison under the tough laws and policies of the last few years – despite the crime rate dropping to levels not seen since 1982.

"To complement the crack down on crime, we now need policies that effectively address the causes of crime. This includes early intervention and tackling juvenile crime. The Youth Offending Strategy uses a holistic approach called Multi Systemic Therapy, which deals with the young offender's family and peer group, and addresses causes such as drug or alcohol problems.

"This has proven more effective in reducing re-offending. The determinant of what policies are adopted for young offenders should be whether they are effective or not in making New Zealand safer, rather than just politicking," Mr Goff said.