Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Quick hit: Three strikes sentencing may be bad

From the Herald online (I didn't notice it in the paper copy?):
The "three-strikes" policy is likely to increase the level of unreported family violence, a survey of ex-offenders and their families has found.

Government officials have also warned "life sentence without parole" could push criminals to kill police and victims to avoid arrest.

The Act Party's three-strikes policy has been introduced as part of the Government's support agreement although Justice Minister Simon Power has conceded it may not make it into law.

An informal survey by lobby group Rethinking Crime and Punishment showed the proposal was likely to increase the level of unreported family violence.

"Rethinking has discussed the three-strikes bill with a group of offenders, ex-offenders and their families and whanau," director Kim Workman said.

"One response, consistent with the three-strikes experience in the USA, is that offenders facing a second or third strike offence, would have little qualms about committing further violent acts to escape apprehension or conviction."
Click through for the rest.

So what exactly is this three strikes thing going to improve?


Anna said...

This policy is entirely motivated by the desire to punish the bad guys. Namby-pamby things like public safety come a distant second.

Random lurker said...

It appeases the vengeful.

The Silent Majority said...

Scaremongering Reaches New Low
Press Release by David Garrett MP, ACT New Zealand
Wednesday, April 22 2009

The battle against ACT's proposed 'Three Strikes' law has intensified, with Justice officials, Te Puni Kokiri and various lobby groups issuing dire predictions of killings by persons facing a third 'strike' conviction to avoid apprehension and increased levels of family violence. These follow extravagant estimates of increased prisoner numbers, and massive extra costs.
"These alarmist predictions also occurred in California in 1994 when that state's 'Three Strikes' law was passed. Fifteen years later, facts have displaced fallacies. Homicide and robbery have decreased by 50 percent since 'Three Strikes' became law whereas California's population increased by 25 percent during the same period," ACT New Zealand Law & Order Spokesman David Garrett said today.
"This means that the real reduction in violent crime is actually much greater than 50 percent. Far from doubling, as predicted, the prison population has only increased by about 25 percent. The costs of implementing the policy are approximately a quarter of that predicted by the alarmists in 1994.
"A referendum seeking to weaken the law was roundly rejected by California voters in 2004. It was rejected overwhelmingly in districts primarily occupied by poor black and Hispanic people. These are the very people who are most affected by crime in their communities and who were benefiting the most from 'Three Strikes'. Those people could see first hand the effects of 'Three Strikes' on their communities.
"San Francisco liberals living in nice Victorian villas in districts where crime was low wanted to weaken the law - the people most affected by crime did not want a bar of it.
"It seems that those in New Zealand making alarming predictions are not at all interested in the clear evidence readily available of how 'Three Strikes' will actually work. All they are interested in is scaring the National Party into not supporting the policy - whatever the truth maybe.
"One can only wonder at the motives driving both officials and lobbyists such as Re-Thinking Crime & Punishment's Mr Kim Workman, who make unfounded and alarming predictions. Perhaps Mr Workman and officials should visit California and actually talk to people across the spectrum as I did in 2007," Mr Garrett said.

Mary-Lou said...

Look at where it works Anna and then come back with a decent argument. That's a cop out to simplify it that it's simply about punishment.

The stats don't lie - and where it has been implemented people don't want to go back.

I want rapists and murderers punished properly... the only thing namby pamby is the current law that lets rapists out again.

AWicken said...


Of course, if 3 strikes was the sole cause of the drmatic plummet in various Californian crime measures during (and before) the '90s then the rates would have only decreased AFTER the law came into effect, not before -in the case of rape and burglary, up to a decade before( ).

Frankly, more likely explanations revolve around better policing, particularly after the LAPD's reorganisation post-1992 riots. The '90s also saw the rise of Compstat-style administration in most police departments, along with computing power for geographic profiling, inter-departmental and inter-jurisdictional data sharing, and active resource tracking and deployment. What are all of these especially good for? High volume public area crime like vehicle thefts, assaults and robbery. Hmmm.

But wanting to give the police better IT to the job raises the spectre of INCIS, and it just doesn't sound as catchy as "three strikes".

Anna said...

Mary-Lou, this is precisely a case of stats lying, as AWicken points out (not that Garrett even produces much in the way of stats). The effects of three strikes on the prison population is clearly cumulative, so prison populations and associated costs will grow over time. Garrett doesn't even address the issue of under-reporting of domestic violence, which is already an issue. It's also worth pointing out that the death penalty will prevent at least some offenders from being able to commit three serious crimes - just one more reason why the US-NZ comparison needs some intelligent thought.

What is your evidence that three strikes works, Mary-Lou? I'll be interested in any references you can suggest.