Monday, January 22, 2007

What happened in 1983?

Today Bailey Junior Kurariki, the country's youngest convicted killer, makes his second appearance before the Parole Board. What are his chances of release this time? Not looking good.

It's a good month to be thinking about homicide. A few days ago, the Herald ran the headline Homicide rate soars - but is it? There have been seven homicides so far this year. A few days ago, that was "nearly one every two days". Now, of course, the homicide rate has dipped to just one every three days.

For a sensible perspective, I got the Sensible Sentencing Trust. I was surprised that they had no actual list of this year's homicide victims, but they do have a 2007 murder map. And they also have this graph, which plots homicides and violent offences in New Zealand since 1952.

What happened in 1983 to precipitate the huge increase in violent offences? It wasn't "P" or party pills. It wasn't Rogernomics and it wasn't global warming. So what was responsible for the sudden surge in violent crime? I have no idea. Do you?

Fortunately, "the rising tide of murder and mayhem" seems to be levelling off...


At 1:14 pm, Blogger Rich said...

Some real facts:
- New Zealand has the highest imprisonment rate in the developed world.
- Prisoners released on parole are less likely to reoffend than those released after serving their full sentence.

18th century Britain pursued much the same policies as those advocated by the Dumbass Sentencing Trust (a bunch of thieves, incidentally). An excellent book called The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes documents this attempt to remove the "criminal classes" to Australia. It failed. Crime only decreased in the UK when better welfare provisions and higher employment levels reduced the size of the criminal underclass.

Jail should be reserved primarily for serious violent offences. Crimes of recklessness, dishonesty and disregard of regulation should be dealt with by other means. We need better alternative punishments that actually address people's offending behaviour. Prison just turns petty thieves and drug dealers into serious violent criminals.

At 2:55 pm, Blogger Richard said...

Rich, you say, "Prisoners released on parole are less likely to reoffend than those released after serving their full sentence."

But even so... "Of those released on parole, 22.6 per cent are reimprisoned within a year and 30.4 per cent are reconvicted." And, "Other trends reveal that reconviction rates decrease significantly as offenders age."

Lock 'em up for longer, I say.

At 7:59 pm, Blogger Lindsay Mitchell said...

NZ doesn't have the highest imprisonment rate in the developed world. The US is streets ahead. Facts are facts (except for yours). They needn't to be preceded with the word 'real'.
If crime in the UK only decreased with better welfare provisions and higher employment how do you explain our current level of crime with only 3.8 percent unemployment?

At 12:32 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am over in Oz, so don't know what legislation was enacted, but from your graph I feel bound to ask, did your government by any chance enact gun control laws circa 1980? Or were there any cases where a person who killed in self defence got convicted of murder?

Other indicators for increasing violence are unemployment, drug enforcement, length of sentence/percentage of the population incarcerated at any particular time.

At 5:36 pm, Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

By the looks of the graph, the upwards trend initiated in ~1975-76.

Clearly that indicates the breakup of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation into TV One and TV Two is responsible.

At 5:38 pm, Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Oh, and in answer to your direct question. I have no idea - please tell!

At 5:39 pm, Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Whoops - in my first comment above that should read 'upwards trend in homicides'.

At 12:26 am, Blogger Unknown said...

The reason that violence is such an issue in New Zealand is that people hit each other too much. I blame the economical experiments that the new right have deployed upon our hapless country.

At 4:12 pm, Blogger Blair Anderson said...

As usefull as it may be to speculate as to cause ( and of course there is also a raft of coorelates) there is precedent for huge jumps in violence and murder due to externalities that when removed, alieviated the rates almost overnight. The prohibition of alcohol and subsequent policy reversal is an exemplar. It is hard to see alcohol as a incidental corelate. We KNOW it is associated with violence and mayhem, legal or otherwise. But its blanket prohibition resulted in murders that were not caused by alcohol, rather the rules.

These rules targeted only the vendor/manufacturer not the consumer. Possesion of alcohol in itself was not an offence.

Now.. consider the [nz] misuse of drug act of 1975, and the ramping up of enforcment (1983) and of course the contining vexing question of such prohibitions 'effectiveness'.

Drugs are cheaper, more available and in many cases more toxic, dangerous and harmful.

The Police (review) will be interesting. Media report the need for increased 'coercive' practices, but there is a paucity of evidence any of this will do anything other than compromise liberties and rights 'at our expense'.

Those who would willingly give up either liberty or rights in exchange for the illusion of civic and civil safety, deserve neither.

It is time to do the cost benefit analysis of drug policy. That this should be done and reported BEFORE we review the Police Act is imperative. Alas this will be lost on those at Sensible Sentencing and other stakeholders in populist 'tough on crime' panderers.

Drug law reform is the stuff of social capital.


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