Labelling kids serious offenders sets rangatahi up to fail

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Government’s archaic ‘tough on crime’ approach is weak on evidence and will do little to nothing to keep our communities safe.

“The punitive policies of this Government will fail our rangatahi and fail to address the core drivers of crime. Our rangatahi need opportunities, to learn, to do mahi, to contribute to their communities. This is what will see them reach their full potential,” says the Green Party spokesperson for justice, Tamatha Paul.

“If we want young people to turn their lives around, we should not be adding to the pain and punishment they’ve experienced their entire lives. Labelling children as young as 14 as serious offenders will only aggravate the vulnerable situations many of our youth find themselves in.

“The prime minister may say he’s ‘sick of it’ when it comes to youth crime, but is ignorant to the core drivers behind why young people fall into crime.

“The drivers are often backgrounds of abuse, trauma, mental health problems, learning disabilities and lack of support. It’s well established that when young people are supported with the basics, like decent housing and nutritious kai, and have opportunities to learn and contribute to their communities, it’s less likely they will turn to crime.

“When we ignore these drivers, we merely feed the cycle of intergenerational trauma that devastates families and communities. What’s more, this government’s policies, such as cutting addiction support services and drug rehabilitation programmes, are exacerbating the drivers of crime.

“Despite the government’s rhetoric about serious offenders, evidence suggests most of the teenagers who will be subject to these orders will have already had a life of difficulty, worlds apart from the privileged and comfortable lives of Government Ministers. Throwing these kids into boot camps is inexcusably shallow politics, and if anything it’s likely to increase reoffending.

“In reality, punishment does nothing but set these young people up to fail. Most of them have already had extremely harsh lives where they have never known love or care, all they have known is abuse and punishment. I know this because I have spent time with these rangatahi. If we want young people to turn their lives around, we have got to try something different to the pain they have experienced their entire lives,” says Tamatha Paul.

/Public Release. View in full here.