Decisive action needed to reduce rate of imprisonment – Peter Dunne


A former member of parliament and cabinet minister is asking whether any Government has the moral fortitude to do anything serious about reducing our growing rate of imprisonment.

Peter Dunne says that for at least the last 30 years it has been virtually impossible to have a rational political debate about law and order.

And he says that, without decisive political leadership, the fallacy of building more prisons to keep people safe while crime continues to fall will remain the default position.

In his weekly political column on Newsroom, Dunne points out that since 1990 New Zealand’s population has increased by 46 percent.

At the same time, the prison population has grown by 129 percent.

And the overall crime rate has been declining steadily since the 1980s.

“That leaves us in the perverse situation of fewer crimes, including violent crimes, being committed; but more and more people ending up in prison,” Dunne says.

He says the focus has to be singleminded – ensuring fewer people are sent to prison, and that our internationally very high imprisonment rate is steadily reduced.

Dunne has some suggestions about what should be done – including:

  • Making greater use of bail and home detention for remand prisoners
  • Looking at the types of crime for which people are being imprisoned, and whether there are better alternatives
  • Looking at the sentencing options currently available to the Courts
  • Seeing if  judges should have more flexibility
  • Getting rid of “frankly silly populist and unsuccessful measures” like the “three strikes” law
  • Looking more seriously at marae-based justice and sentencing for Maori offenders

Dunn concedes it is comparatively easy to state what needs to be done.

He knows it will harder to make it happen.

The public flashpoint on law and order issues is extremely sensitive.


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News category: New Zealand.

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