'Boot camps' criticised over high re-offending

  • 14/12/2012

The Government's so-called “boot camps” for young offenders are copping criticism following news nearly two-thirds of graduates surveyed broke the law again within six months.

At $18,000 a head, the question is now being asked, was it money well-spent?

It's been five years since John Key campaigned on the scheme – good old-fashioned army discipline to sort out New Zealand's worst young criminals. But Kim Workman, director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, says it was never going to be a success.

“I think the problem was that it was pronounced as a silver bullet, but was devoid of gunpowder,” he says.

Mr Workman says had the Government done its homework, the camps wouldn't have missed the mark.

In two years, 57 young people were signed up, and of those, 49 stuck it out. But of 31 surveyed once they were back in the community, 19 of them (61 percent) had re-offended within six months.

Mr Workman says that doesn't bode well.

“Within two years of release you would expect the numbers to go up to between 85 and 90 percent, which is about the sort of rate you'd expect if you did nothing at all. So it's a disappointing result.”

At $18,000 a head the Government's spent more than $1 million of taxpayer funds on two years of camps. But while recidivism's still high, the camps have put a dent in the number of crimes committed, and the severity. So, was it worth it?

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows says yes.

“We would love it if we could push a little button on each of those little criminals and they didn't offend again, but the nature of criminal behaviour is you don't just turn it off like a tap.”

But Mr Borrows admits improvement is needed.

“What we are doing now is bolting on mentoring onto that young person going back into the community.

“These young people are offending at a very high level, just to slide them back into the environment they've come from would be like taking someone out of the poo, shaking the poo off them, and dropping them back in the poo again.”

It's hoped mentoring and other post-camp initiatives in the pipeline will help keep them clean.

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source: newshub archive