The “three strikes” rule – it’s more about scuttling Pita than it is about law and order

Alf is not surprised that the Maori Party is appalled by the Government’s proposed “three strike” legislation, the product of a worthy collaboration between the National and ACT parties to combat crime in the community.

There are electoral implications as well as law-and-order ones.

And Pita Sharples – a politically shrewd operator – will have tumbled to the real intent of the ACT Party.

Nah, it’s not simply to lock up bad buggers. It’s more to weaken electoral support for the Maori Party’s by banging up repeat offenders.

Under the policy, which will need to be approved by Parliament, anyone who commits a third violent crime will receive the maximum possible sentence with no chance of parole.

Dunno if Sharples, who is Associate Corrections Minister, had much say behind the scenes during the planning of the proposed law.

If he did, his influence was negligible, which would help to explain why he is now squawking about increasing punitive measures not solving the problem of crime and violence.

He says the proposals will create huge disparities in sentencing and punishment which are completely out of proportion to the crime.

Dr Sharples says it shows the Government is hide-bound by political rhetoric on crime and punishment that has no factual basis.

Crusher Collins doesn’t go in for that namby-pamby stuff. She says the proposed legislation will have a definite deterrent effect, in particular because offenders will be given clear warnings.

“Because of the fact that judges will have to give the warning on the first strike, and obviously a second warning on the second strike, they will have to make it very clear to the offenders what is going to happen to them,” she told Summer Report.

But Alf reckons ACT’s real intent is to weaken support for the Maori Party, and in turn undermine the Maori Party’s capacity to influence the Key Government.

ACT will have worked out that Maori Party constituents and supporters – and/or potential constituents and supporters – are more likely to be banged up under the three strikes rule than ACT Party supporters.

Alf may well be denounced as a racist for exposing this reality, of course, but his retort to the critics is to look at the statistics.

The criminal justice system’s data on recorded offences, convictions and sentencing provides an official picture of crime. One area where differences are recorded is the conviction and imprisonment statistics between ethnic groups in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In the year 2006, of those convicted in court with a known ethnicity, 43% were Māori, 9% were Pacific peoples, 45% were New Zealand European, and 3% other ethnicity (Morrison, Soboleva & Chong, 2008). Māori imprisonment levels are also high, with Māori comprising around 50% of New Zealand prison inmates.

All sorts of reasons are given to explain those figures. Stuff like Maori crime being a product of colonialism, and the justice system disadvantaging Maori, and the alienation of Maori from their culture…

It’s never that the buggers who are jailed might be prone to breaking the law.

But what about the likely impact of the “three strikes” rule.

The re-imprisonment rate over 48 months for Maori offenders (55%) is considerably higher than the rate for both NZ Europeans (45%) and Pacific offenders (36%). This difference is likely to be a reflection of a number of variables. Maori offenders as a group tend on average to be younger than Europeans …

ACT will have asked who are more likely to vote for Pita Sharples and the Maori Party? Maori – or the rest of us?

Then they will have come up with a fiendish scheme for ensuring persistent law-breakers (a big chunk of Maori among them) stay locked up for longer,

As you will learn from the Elections NZ website –

In New Zealand, people sentenced to prison for a term of greater than three years cannot vote, but other prisoners can.

Countries vary on which prisoners, if any, can vote, and some states exclude everyone who has at any time served a prison sentence of a certain length

Alf is putting his money on ACT now mounting a campaign to deny the right to vote to anyone who has been in prison.

ACT might miss out on the votes of a few fraudulent lawyers, accountants, bankers and so on. But it’s odds on it will have calculated it won’t lose as much support as the Maori Party does.

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