Thursday, January 21, 2010

Three strikes: An incentive to murder

The Herald today points out some of the consequences of the government's "three strikes" law. According to the Corrections Association, it means that there is no incentive to behave behind bars:

Association president Bevan Hanlon said prisoners serving life sentences would have nothing to lose by being violent behind bars.

"The whole point is there is no carrot under this new [law]," Mr Hanlon said.

He said murderers are now being sent to Paremoremo with sentences of over 20 years.

"That's as bad as it gets. It doesn't matter what they do, they're not going to get anything else done to them, so what's to stop them attacking Corrections officers."?

That's backed up by criminologist Greg Newbold - who having actually served time in prison, could be considered to know what he's talking about. Unlike the politicians in National and ACT. But there's a bigger concern: that the new law is an outright incentive for murder:
Howard League for Penal Reform president Peter Williams, QC, said some criminals with a record may kill in order to avoid being caught by police.

"If people realise that if they are going to be arrested, they are going to be in there [prison] for their natural life, there may be circumstances where they are going to kill," Mr Williams said.

That's and it is backed up by empirical evidence from the US, cited by the Herald last year, which found that homicide rates increased in cities with "three strikes" laws when compared with those without such laws. The same article also reports that "three strikes" results in a decrease in reporting rates for domestic violence, as victims didn't want to see their abusers put in jail forever. But the government would probably regard that as a plus, since it would decrease the headline rate of violent crime, thus showing that the law was "working".

If the government's aim is to decrease violent crime, then this is exactly the wrong way to go about it.