In a comprehensive defeat for common sense, the Nats have today announced their plans for youth offender bootcamps.
To me, this is everything that's wrong with the populist politics National seems so keen to engage in. The Nats must know there's no evidence that bootcamps reduce offending or produce any social benefits at all - they're just throwing a bone to the rabid right, who are motivated by a punitive urge that borders on sadism.
When a young person - or any person - commits violence or another serious crime, it shows that they don't feel much connection with the society around them. Forcibly removing them from that society, intentionally degrading them and subjecting them to punitive treatment is hardly going to foster their empathy. In fact, it's going to feel a whole lot like state-sanctioned bullying - and that never motivated anyone to be a good citizen.
It's my hope that no responsible, ethical social service worker will be involved with these bootcamps. But this could in itself cause problems: unqualified people may end up responsible for the care of kids with a complex range of needs. Many of these kids will be dealing with abuse or drug or alcohol problems - not the stuff of amateur hour.
Concern for youth offenders aside, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to foresee problems with teaching youth offenders military skills. Would it be desirable for the likes of Liam Reid to have combat training? Antonie Dixon, perhaps? Not that these kids will need much help from the military experts: putting 40 accomplished offenders together creates a formidable criminal workshop.
I have no doubt whatsoever that bootcamps will actually increase crime. To so-called 'justice' and victims' rights advocates, this seems a reasonable price to pay for the joy of vengeance. That's more than a little ironic.