Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The consequences of three strikes

The Herald this morning sounds another warning about the government's draconian and cruel "three strikes" policy, pointing out that it could have some pretty ugly consequences:

"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.

"A recent USA study found that in cities with three-strikes laws, homicide rates increased on average 13-14 per cent in the short term and 16-24 per cent in the long term, compared with cities without the laws.

In New Zealand, that equates to an extra five to ten murders a year, all so the government can show it is "tough on crime". Seems a bit counterproductive, neh? But that's not all: All the good work we've been doing on getting people to report family violence could go out the window:
"But what it also showed, was that victims of family violence would be less likely to report violence against them from their partners, if they knew it would be followed by imprisonment without parole, in the case of a second strike, or 25 years in prison on the third strike.

"The common reaction of the partners was, `I don't want to put my old man away in prison for a long time; I just want him to stop hitting me'."

And no doubt this reduction in reported crime rates would be hailed as proof the law was having a deterrent effect. Dickheads. (See note below)

ACT's David Garrett has responded, as usual, by spewing ink, pointing out that in California "Homicide and robbery have decreased by 50 percent since 'Three Strikes' became law". What he doesn't mention is that the reduction was part of a broader, demographically-driven reduction in crime across the US and Canada, and the difference "three strikes" made is entirely unclear. But Garrett isn't about the empirical evidence; as we've seen before, he's just the crime-equivalent of a climate change denier.

Note: It has been pointed out to me that the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill does not include domestic violence in its list of qualifying offences. However, I should also point out that it is included in garrett's draft bill [PDF], and that ACT is pushing for its re-inclusion - so it is a problem we need to worry about if they get their way.