In a controversial move to assert themselves as the ‘law and order’ party, National has announced a $60 million package targeting recidivist young offenders, to be rolled out if re-elected into government.
$30 million of the $60 million has been allocated to establishing a defence-led academy at the Waiouru Training Camp, with judges being able to order ‘Young Serious Offenders’ (YSOs, a new category) to attend the camp for one year. Those who fail to complete their sentence at the academy will serve a proportionate adult sentence instead.
While run by the military and with an emphasis on discipline, National has stated that staff will also help with problems like addiction or a lack of literacy or numeracy.
Community support worker Alisa* thinks the proposal has some merit, but that its potential might be negated by the boot-camp arrangement.
“For young offenders, we definitely need more intermediary steps so that prison isn’t the only option. I like the rehabilitative approach, but when has a military structure ever benefited mental health? A big issue we have with at-risk youth is institutionalization.”
Minister of Justice Amy Adams commented that through this initiative National are intending to “hold negligent parents to account,” as another facet of the package allows police to issue instant fines to parents whose children under the age of 14 are found on the streets between 12am and 5am, whether engaged in criminal behaviour or not.
The Labour Party Spokesperson for Justice Andrew Little told Critic, “This punitive approach is not a way to fix what are usually deep seated social problems within a family or community”.
Little also expressed concern about the disproportionate arrest and detainment of Māori and Pasifika people, stating “I wouldn’t have any assurance that the same kind of bias wouldn’t also apply to young kids found on the street”. National has not spoken on how such issues might be mediated.
Other proposals included in the package involve limiting opportunities for bail, increasing the use of electronic monitoring, and removing the ability for the most serious young offenders to be released early from any youth justice custodial sentences.
*Name has been changed.