There is a lot of nonsense being bandied around about the “Three strikes” law. Fortunately Colin Espiner has been very helpful and (unintentionally, I presume) regurgitated all the nonsense in one place. Thank you. Colin.
Apparently, Mr. Espiner thinks that the Nats are about to descend into legal barbarism by even giving countenance to this law. He warns National to avoid the “clamour from the talkback-phoning, hatchet-weilding, noose-knotting “hang ‘em high” brigade who masquerade under the pretence of being ordinary citizens concerned about law and order”. Whenever you see a string of disparaging adjectives about a group of people, you know that the article to follow will itself consist almost entirely of knee jerk reaction and hyperbole in best “talk-back” fashion. It’s not that anything Espiner says is entirely unreasonable, it is just that all of his objections to the tough new laws are very easy to fix. for instance:
“…in New Zealand, a murder carries a mandatory life sentence. Non-parole periods are added into this. That means under the policy promised by National during the campaign, someone convicted of a murder who earlier had, say, committed an armed robbery, would go to jail until they died.”
Perfectly true, but easily fixed by setting a mandatory non-parole period instead of removing parole. Some may still argue that someone who has committed an armed robbery and then a murder is a dangerous recidivist who probably shouldn’t be released anyway. Me, I’d be happy with a 17 year minimum.
“Moves are afoot, however, to somehow combine such a profoundly inhumane – and not to mention illegal under United Nations covenants we are a signatory to – piece of law with the ACT Party’s even more ludicrous “Three Strikes” legislation.”
The three strikes law is designed to incarcerate serious recidivists for as long as possible, removing them from society. This would only be inhumane if these people had some chance of rehabilitation. This would appear to be extremely unlikely, given that the evidence is that the rehabilitation rate from a third serious offense is negligible. It is also debatable whether a three strikes law would be considered to violate human rights, as long as the “triggering strike” is a suitably severe offense and the list of offenses causing strikes is curtailed.
“Just how dumb is Three Strikes? This dumb: on your third conviction for armed robbery you go to jail for 25 years. Without parole. The same applies to murder, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, rape and a range of sexual offences on children and young people.”
And I am waiting for Espiner to tell me why putting these people out of society for a very long time is anything but a good idea. After 3 armed robberies, you go to jail for 25 years. That would be 25 years that society will not have to cope with yet another armer robber. After 3 rapes, that would be 25 years of life with one less rapist.
These people are not good citizens who “made a mistake”, they are not unfortunates who have had a hard life and should be pitied. They are nasty, vicious predators who seriously harm yet more innocent people if freed. Long sentences may not be a deterrent to others, but they certainly stop reoffenders dead in their tracks.
“But wait. There’s more. National is proposing to add to the list of things that can result in you being sent to jail for a third of your life: incest, throwing acid, and – I am not making this up – bestiality.
“Yup, shag a sheep three times and you go to jail for 25 years. That’s just insane.”
Yes, Colin, shagging a sheep 3 times probably is insane…
But, seriously, these are just proposals for the select committee to look at. And it is highly unlikely that the “triggering strike” will be anything less than a seriously major offense. I would favour just murder, rape and, possibly, armed robbery as triggering strikes. I doubt if incest, throwing acid or bestiality will wind up being considered strike offenses in the final legislation, let alone triggering strikes.
Espiner brings out the tired old factoids.
- Longer incarceration makes no difference to the crime rate. This is only partly true, it makes little difference to the overall crime rate but drops the serious crime rate over time. Most studies use five and ten year time frames, but the likelihood is this will take 15 or more years to make an appreciable difference. It is usually years between each serious offense. It takes time to catch and convict criminals. All of this adds to the lag time between enforcement and decreased crime.
- The cost will be astronomical. The cost of $5 billion has been mooted. The assumptions behind this figure are highly questionable, including that crime rates will go up rather than down, that costs of incarceration will not be contained and that most serious offender will wind up as third strikers.
- It’s unfair. Only if you adopt California’s rather senseless three strikes law which does not distinguish between strike and triggering strike offenses (and also has far too many things that are counted as strike offenses)
- We don’t have enough jails to house them all in. Like that is such a good argument for allowing dangerous recidivists to wander around maiming and killing. </sarcasm>
- The way we treat our fellow human beings is how we are judged as a society. A lesson sorely missed by the criminals we are talking about. The fact that we wish to restrain these predators rather than simply kill them, makes us a more humane society than 90% of the rest of the planet.
I am not in favour of simply increasing all sentencing, but increasing the sentences of people who are dangerous and un-rehabilitatable makes good sense to me. It will make New Zealand society a safer place to live. Even for sheep.