The Soap Box: Boot camps won't get to root of youth crime problem

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 15 August 2017, 7:33AM
National's boot camp plan doesn't get to the root of the problem. Photo / Getty
National's boot camp plan doesn't get to the root of the problem. Photo / Getty

On the face of it it sounds like a great idea - lock the little law breaking buggers up, give them a bit of military discipline. After graduation if they keep their noses clean for a year they'll get time off their court imposed sentence for good behaviour.

It's as though National went rummaging through its election war chest and dusted off a policy they first came out with before getting into power nine years ago.

Forget that it didn't live up to its promises, it sounds good. Even the Government's own science advisor warned about a nine week training course for recidivist offenders in 2010 showed no evidence it was working.

The latest plan will see 14 to 17 year olds convicted of serious sexual and violent offences, including murder, spit polishing their boots alongside soldiers at Waiouru for a year. Thankfully weapons training doesn't seem to be included in the course.

Those at the pit face say boot camps don't work, with graduating youngsters going on to commit more serious crimes than those who've been sent to other institutions, or undertaken other programmes.

Truth is that we wouldn't need to be debating this issue if parents took more responsibility for their children. But National has a plan for them as well. If kids under 14 are found wondering the streets between midnight and 5am parents could be landed with a $200 spot fine - so teenagers will find their windows deadlocked if this ever becomes a reality.

These are the issues that have been identified over the generations when it comes to dealing to, and with, our wayward youth.

A Youth Court Judge once observed that if she only had to deal with kids who offend when they're sober she'd have very little work to do.

They'll more than likely re-offend if they don't have family support and an effective plan for their future put in place at a family conference if they've gone off the rails.

Maori youth are a particular problem area, because those who deal with them on the front line say they're more likely to come to the attention of the police than Pakeha - they're more likely to be seen as up to no good. So get rid of the prejudice.

The trouble with recalcitrant youth though isn't new. In my day the dreaded borstals were the places to avoid. They were for offenders between the age of 16 and 21 where the baddies ended up incarcerated for between one and five years. They were based on a graduated rewards system with occupational training.

But they too failed to stop further offending.

It sounds trite, but surely the solution lies at the family kitchen table.

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