I urge the National Party to urgently rethink their proposed policy.
Around every five years or so, the idea of boot camps – rebranded with a new shiny name – resurfaces.
I get it. We are all concerned when we see what feels like outbreaks of offending, such as the recent ram raids, but dusting off old solutions that didn’t work then and won’t work now is not the answer.
Putting children in electronic monitoring bracelets not only won’t work, it is also quite simply wrong.
Getting ‘tough’ on young offenders almost never works. Almost all of the small group of serious and persistent offenders have grown up in households that are chaotic, unsafe, and dysfunctional. They have never been taught skills or values like self-respect and respect for others, thinking before acting, and being part of their community.
So how can they respond to the so-called ‘self-discipline’ these camps champion? They can’t. In the same way that giving a child sheet music without teaching them to read it won’t work, and they won’t learn to read it without understanding why it’s important.
Sadly, while seeking solutions that - in reality - are really just retribution, we are missing opportunities to turn young lives around.
In the ten years up until COVID-19, youth offending dropped by 65%. We have work to do to regain momentum, but the answer then and now is a combination of restorative justice pathways and prevention. That has meant that solutions have been found in a holistic approach, where whānau and community - including iwi, Police, and other agencies - work collaboratively to wrap support around those youth and whānau that might be at risk. The focus needs to be on prevention to ensure the safety of these young people and the public. Restorative justice provides accountability, and healing for all involved.
- Under current legislation, with the exception of the most serious offending, children under 12 are not subject to the Youth Court process. Once the detail of this proposed policy is published, the Commissioner and her Office will be seeking to understand the legal mechanism for an Electronic Monitoring order or an Intensive Supervision Order on this group.