Mark Sainsbury: National's bootcamp policy is for voters, not offenders

OPINION: National's boot camp policy for serious youth criminals is aimed more at voters than offenders.

It might sound great on paper: let's get tough on these kids, sort them out with a bit of army discipline. And those deadbeat parents? Well if they won't supervise their kids at night, slap a fine on them.

Bill English says something new has to be done to break the cycle and many of us would agree with that - but it's funny, isn't it, how this breakthrough idea comes nine years after taking power.

I doubt the Army is ecstatic about being handed everyone else's problems. Funnily enough it wants to attract the best recruits it can get, not just be handed what society and the National Party declare the dropkicks - the ones who seem to react to nothing else.

And then there are the parents. What are bad parents and is it possible to 'fix' them?

In Chairman Mao's time during China's bloody Cultural Revolution it was simple. The kids dobbed in their folks, who were sent off to a re-education camp: they improved or died.

National's plan is not quite so draconian of course, but why does it think parents unwilling to even moderately supervise their own kids be willing to pay a fine for their lax behaviour?

At the same time as it's rolling out this new policy, National's trumpeting its past success: crime down, reoffending down, youth crime down… and still it says it needs a policy to deal with the 150 most hard core youth offenders.

If this is the case why not recruit 150 new cops and permanently assign them to the 150 troubled youth and their families?

Similar strategies have had some success with the gangs, so rather than just labelling these young criminals as "serious offenders" and shipping them off to boot camp, maybe we should pay them some individual attention.

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.