Wednesday 28 February 2018

Crime And Punishment: Professional Dreams versus Political Realities.

Lock Them Up: Kiwis simply rebel at the idea of being driven blindly by forces they cannot control. Nor will they accept the pain and suffering of their neighbours as statistically inevitable. Shit may happen – but that doesn’t mean the ratbags who make it happen should be allowed to escape the consequences of their actions.

THE TWO BIG QUESTIONS when it comes to crime and punishment, law and order, are: “Why do people commit crimes?” And: “What should we do with them when they do?” On how a majority of voters answers those two questions will depend the overall thrust and purpose of New Zealand’s criminal justice and correction systems.

The answer given by most New Zealanders to the first question is simple and direct enough to make sociologists, psychologists and criminologists wince: “Because they are bad people.” The public’s response to the second question, as unequivocal as the first, is: “Lock them up.”

The professionals like their compatriots’ answer to the second question even less than the first.

Their explanations for criminal offending are multifaceted and complex – as are their recommendations for what do about it.

In practical political terms, however, the complexity of the problem is the professionals’ worst enemy.

Sociologists, psychologists and criminologists are trained to view criminal behaviour scientifically, as a series of predictable responses to a range of exhaustively researched and clearly identifiable stimuli. Look into the background of just about any criminal, they argue, and you will find at least one, and in many cases, all of the following causal factors: acute parental inadequacy; childhood trauma; interrupted schooling; functional illiteracy; intermittent employment; substance abuse and/or addiction and mental illness.

Criminal behaviour, driven by these causal factors, they argue, is almost impossible to prevent. Their reasoning presents the criminal as a helpless cork tossed about on a wild torrent of malign environmental forces over which he or she exercises no control whatsoever. By this reading, criminals are not bad people. They are, rather, people who’ve had bad luck.

That being the case, the mission of the criminal justice and correction systems should have just two principal objectives. First: to protect the rest of society from further harm by identifying, apprehending and then isolating the most serious criminal offenders in specialised institutions. Second: to initiate rehabilitative measures designed to eliminate the worst manifestations of each individual offender’s dysfunctional personal history.

The great problem with this approach is that it regards the victims of crimes committed by serious offenders in much the same way as military commanders regard the death and injury visited upon non-combatants during military operations: they are “collateral damage”. Contemporary society, like contemporary warfare, runs this argument, cannot avoid generating an irreducible amount of carnage. Inevitably, there will be people who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is sad, but it is also unavoidable.

All of which may be true, but for most New Zealanders it simply will not do. The pain and suffering inflicted by serious criminal offending cannot be shrugged-off with an academically tricked-out version of “shit happens”.

The essence of the New Zealand character is embodied in the idea that individual Kiwis make their own luck. Every New Zealander knows someone who, through sheer grit and determination, has risen above the terrible circumstances of their upbringing and made something of themselves. Who did it on their own. And if people are able to do good on their own, then it stands to reason that they must also be able to do evil on their own. It’s why New Zealanders’ patience with social, psychological and criminological science is so notoriously thin. Kiwis simply rebel at the idea of being corks. Nor will they accept the pain and suffering of their neighbours as statistically inevitable. Shit may happen – but that doesn’t mean the ratbags who make it happen should be allowed to escape the consequences of their actions.

New Zealand’s new Justice Minister, Andrew Little, persuaded by the professionals, has set his face against his fellow citizens’ answers to the questions of crime and punishment, law and order. He has looked at the burgeoning number of people incarcerated in our jails, and he is saying that it simply will not do.

He does not want to press ahead with the planned billion-dollar, 3,000-bed super-prison at Waikeria. He and his party would rather reduce New Zealand’s prison muster by 30 percent.

The lawyer in him rebels against the idea that our current bail laws have remanded upwards of 3,000 Kiwis – all of them innocent until proven guilty – to months after soul-destroying months in custody.

The professionals are cheering him on. They want him to put in place a criminal justice and correction system guided by the scientific evidence – not the atavistic urges of the public.

Alas for Mr Little and the professionals, the questions of crime and punishment, law and order, are only rarely resolved through reasoned and dispassionate discussion. Like the Almighty, in Book of Genesis, the electorate demands answers from the Cains who live among them:

“What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!”

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 27 February 2018.


David Stone said...

Hi Chris

Some crime, quite horrible crime is committed by people who live in comfort and privilege. Also much is done in our society by those in power and privilege that is just as immoral as some laws on the statute , but is not legally identified as crime.
I think this demonstrates that criminal behaviour is not only caused by disadvantage . Inequality and the perception that some evil is lawful and some is not is the biggest incentive, but some people are going to transgress whatever happens.

Anonymous said...

The courts need a major overhaul to deal with cases far quicker so as to release the genuinely inncocent from remand. Murder trials taking a year to come before the courts is ridiculous. Also Little said in a newspaper report on his wanting to softer on justice may mean we would have to live with the occassional collateral damage (not the exact words) - i.e. that girl murdered in Auckland by a male acquaintance that was out on bail. Can't see the public being really accepting.......

jh said...

Sociologists, psychologists and criminologists are trained to view criminal behaviour scientifically
But there is a divide in social sciences between social constructionists and evolutionary psychology.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Chris

You touch on the heart of the problem at the end with your reference to Genesis.

We no longer agree on what it means to be human. Are we humans inherently flawed and predisposed to anti-social behaviour, restrained only by the few social taboos that remain, combined with the rule of law… Or, are we inherently good, with some people being damaged by their negative social environment, which results in criminal offending?

If it’s the former, then the emphasis is upon taking personal responsibility for one’s actions, in which case an element of punishment and deterrence is appropriate. If it’s the latter, then the criminal is themselves a victim and must be treated accordingly.

As we have become increasingly theologically illiterate, the Judeo/Christian understanding of the human condition has been systematically washed out of our culture. Consequently, our highly educated ‘experts’ have landed on the side of humanity being ‘inherently good’.

The bulk of the population may also be largely illiterate when it comes to Christianity, but their gut instinct tells them these are ‘bad people’ and they need to be locked up, even if not necessarily punished.

All the major political parties are in the ‘inherently good’ camp, it’s just that Labour is further along the spectrum. I’m guessing they believe that if we treat criminal offenders nicely, they will treat us nicely in return. There has always been a level of utopianism in the Labour camp when it comes to crime and punishment. Andrew Little exhibits a greater degree than most.

Hopefully he will listen to his advisors, and realize that a relaxation of the bail laws, and a softer approach to sentencing would be ill advised, both socially and politically.

Sadly, we in New Zealand are becoming a more dysfunctional and violent society, which in turn increases the prison population. I suppose we could recommence teaching the historical moral virtues to our children in schools again, but that would be considered socially transgressive.

It is easier politically to build more prisons.

Kat said...

What about building a few ships similar to The Spirit of New Zealand and put maritime training in the school curriculum for all able bodied kids to participate in. Beats military or boot camp training and lays a good foundation for instilling resilience, self reliance, respect for others and decision making. Coupled with the reinstatement of a 21st century MWD, reinvigorated industries such as Forestry, Rail and Maritime this country could go a long way in pulling out of the mire of youth delinquency, substance abuse, general crime and the need for bigger prisons.

In another another time......

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Hopefully he will listen to his advisors, and realize that a relaxation of the bail laws, and a softer approach to sentencing would be ill advised, both socially and politically. "

So Brendan, we're back to theological literacy again. I'll avoid making sarcastic comments about that for now. But let's say this. Did you not read the article? It says that criminology should be based on science. Now your hypothesis if I could call it that loosely, says that if we were all religious, then there would be less crime. Which should be relatively testable, because there are countries that are more religious than us, and there are times that have been a lot more religious than ours. And in those countries, and at those times you would expect less crime. Not true.
Similarly with your so-called family values. There are countries that value families in theory a lot more than ours, and there were times and places in history when families were all important. And you would expect then that crime would be a lot less at those times and in those places. Not true. Indeed, if you look at a crime map of the United States – there is either no great relationship between religiosity and the incidence of crime, or crime takes place in religious states more than it does irreligious ones.
What you are doing is calling for more of the same old same old, which even if we don't agree on a solution, surely we can agree that this doesn't actually work. At the moment, prison is meant to both punish and rehabilitate. And the rehabilitation has been under – resourced now for years. Hence the recidivism rate. And if you go to countries that are succeeding in rehabilitating, and that aren't jailing quite so many people, you find that not only do they have less crime, but they are some of the most irreligious countries in the world.:)
"But there is a divide in social sciences between social constructionists and evolutionary psychology."
Not so much as you think. You should read wider. You should also perhaps read deeper. Instincts are not the rigid things you seem to think they are.

David George said...

Wise words Brendon. Working with crime prone individuals and community it became clear that there was a basic and fundamental problem that is rarely discussed yet lies at the heart of much failure, crime and social/behavioral problems. The propensity to not tell the truth.
I couldn't help contrasting with my own upbringing and wondering how folk got to be so dysfunctional with regard to the truth. Normal interaction, the exchange of information, ideas, goods and services becomes a fraught business of trying to second guess the other party.
Despite society becoming much more equal, liberal and with greater acceptance of diverse ideas and people the level of criminality is far higher than (say) a hundred years ago. The truth strengthens and re-integrates the individual and the community, it requires the decision; I will tell the truth. Or, at least, don't lie.
I don't know what the "experts" are doing and I wonder if they do either; we are looking at things dishonestly if we think we can solve failure with either prisons or compassion.

"To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being. Truth builds edifices that can stand a thousand years. Truth feeds and clothes the poor, and makes nations wealthy and safe. Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become a partner rather that an enemy. Truth makes the past truly past, and makes the best of the future's possibilities. Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It's the light in the darkness.
See the truth. Tell the truth."
Professor Jordan Peterson: 12 Rules for Life. An Antidote to Chaos.

greywarbler said...

Andrew Little can refer to stats saying that prisons are using too much of taxpayers money and pulling in too wide a population. And their continued existence is an obvious declaration that in themselves the do not prevent crime, otherwise we would have been able to abolish them years ago. And locking people away for a time without them having a change of heart, means that the emerging prisoner is probably worse than when he/she entered.

Andrew could start allowing as many out on bail as are suitable, after looking at their past history. Then if their cases could be heard faster there would be less offending while on bail. Also there could be prison farms where those on bail would be held and they would be working on the farm and living under supervision. That would keep them away from their associates and be a powerful reason to behave, knowing they would be held in jail if they did commit crime. It doesn't need to be tough, family visits, films, a weekly hangi, would set a living standard that might be a template for the prisoners.

It would also help if we did not allow our courts to be held up with cases that didn't deserve long hearings. Three strikes and you automatically get longer prison sentences would be wiped though past crimes would be considered by the magistrate or judge. This would be replaced by three strikes and you don't get a jury trial unless it's a major crime. Also people who are in this country temporarily get sent home after a few days in prison, probably on remand. Why bother to spend our money and space on dealing with rascals we don't want. Costly to us.

Keep talking about effective training. Look at what Kim Workman and others from prison reform have been suggesting. Look at atonement by mind work, school and education brought up to scratch, or payment of a fine which if renegged on would involve a prison sentence, school work away from their normal haunts. Peer pressure is a strong magnet. That gets away from punishment as punitive, and concentrates on it as insisting on effort to self-improve, to learn more, recover self-respect and give and expect respect with others.

And look for recidivism to be reduced to under 10% for the same class of crime only. People who are light fingered may be unable to stop some reoffending, but still have turned their lives round as far as violence is concerned. They could go to Outward Bound type courses and just clear their minds of the impulse to be a cheat for a while in fresh surroundings.

And Andrew emphasise that money saved is to be spent on habilitation. It's pointed out by the experienced that some have nothing to be rehabilitated to, they have been on hard times since they were born, or fallen into it and embedded in it. Settle for reasonably good people, being in work most of the time, trying to raise a family with warm and mostly happy members, keeping off the drink and gambling all of the time etc.

And keep pointing out that the prison system changed to be called Corrections, but a name change has to have a sensible plan alongside. At present too many aren't corrected. Self correction should be the aim. Army-style orders and living won't do it, and old habits need to be looked at and broken. People tell me that you can form new habits in three months. If they could stick for just that long, they might forge a whole new life for themselves and their extended family - a role model to all who know him or her. And that could be seen as an achievable goal. Spend the time coming off drugs and 'turning onto learning' could be the slogan.

Sanctuary said...

A right wing authoritarian had the bail laws tightened because one and same right wing authoritarian and her governments have systematically underfunded the court system, meaning there is and was far to long a gap between the charging with an offense and the trial. It was a typically Tory response to a problem of their own making - kick the victims and shift the blame whilst pocketing the cash difference.

justice delayed is justice denied, something one hears every day from victims of crime on the steps of our courthouses when they start their statements with the words "we can finally..." and it is clear the wait for justice was as traumatising as effectively as having no redress at all.

In other words, we can have all the high minded discussion in the world about the rights and wrongs of long periods imprisoned on remand but none of it will count for squat if a dangerous criminal six months out on bail commits a savage crime, when common sense tells you that person should have been tried and punished months ago. There is no point liberalising the bail laws while we criminalise more and more aspects of our society and while we don't fund - or reform - the court system to allow for more rapid hearing of cases.

greywarbler said...

The statement under the image is ambiguous.

Lock Them Up: Kiwis simply rebel at the idea of being driven blindly by forces they cannot control. Nor will they accept the pain and suffering of their neighbours as statistically inevitable. Shit may happen – but that doesn’t mean the ratbags who make it happen should be allowed to escape the consequences of their actions.

This may be true if making a point about locking up law-breakers. But to make it a statement for all Kiwis, implying it is an absolute, that is wrong. I would argue that Kiwis do not rebel because that means change which we don't like. Rebel at the old way, which doesn't seem to serve the purpose, that's not us. We just pile on more of the same; if it doesn't work then give a double dose. We are not problem solvers with verve and ideals coming from the working of the higher mind, we are sweepers under the carpet, make it look okay, resorters to a piece of No.8 wire to hold the pieces of the system together. We are charlatans at the running of country striding boldly into our parliament and work places, going through the motions, attaching ourselves to every success recognised overseas, not knowing excellence in our own community because we only measure that by money and influence. But those random triumphs that are achieved despite our neglect are held high as representing the spirit of the country.

Those of us who rebel against this gross complacency are in the minority.

The pain and suffering of neighbours is being accepted as inevitable every day by the complacent NZs. You are jobless and legless. Response; you have to try harder mate, that's the way it is these days. Of course criminality becomes more likely as people without a role, a place, receiving little or no respect, go without in a country that boasts about how well it is doing; that is inevitable. There is a great motivator for challenging oneself to take risk and it's the query, 'What have I got to lose?' and when you reach bottom, it is the spark of life left, the drive to assert yourself still, that spurs the criminality. Later you drop crushed and drink or drug yourself to death, hit out at other people, or short-circuit the whole shemozzle and kill yourself.

And who are the ratbags that cause this plague to happen? When do they have to answer for their sins of misuse of power, and neglect of their civic and civil duties to their fellow citizens - the politicians, the Treasury economists, the right-wing supporters of no-regulation, the profit-takers, the employers who misuse their power. Understanding human nature, having respect for human virtues and faults, and the balance between the carrot and stick is essential to maintain a good society.

greywarbler said...

I know so much of what I am saying has been said before, and it has gone into two comments. But why has the country has got into this dire position we are in, with criminality being strongly punished at the bottom end, while the upper strata surf above the law and retribution? (Who knows what the present Court case in deep-throat security blackout is about? Not about murdering dairy owners, children.)

I've written down what we need to keep reminding ourselves, the thread that runs through our news and days - the past events that have unfolded over my lifetime to what I see as this ruin of our country.

We in NZ have been trusting and complacent and not inclined to reflection and interrogation of our country's situation and expectations. We want too much now, and both rich and poor have been unwilling to limit lifestyle to honest earnings, and we now live on credit personally, while government babbles on about reducing today's debt and future embedded costs.

We have been driven to seek surety in our agricultural markets and gone to excess to with the almost complete abandonment of protective tariffs and controls, and wrecked the employment prospects of a large number of NZs who now form what is called the precariat, people with no security of wage or living. We are outmaneouvred by the wealthy in the world and most NZs have been disadvantaged which is plainly noticeable when we look at the inflated prices for a place to live. The poverty of our thinking has led to the poverty around us, settled deeply and noticeably in certain areas. And we have noticed plainly a rise in gang communities that are a place for the meeting of those with similar backgrounds, similar to Rotary for accountants etc.

Lack of housing, rise in crime, they are markers on our Everests standing high because we have simply followed the thinking of ratbags. They get knighthoods for leading us to a society with a crevasse between the 'fools on the hill' and the flood-plains below where the citizens live while some eke out survival on a day-by-day basis.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear GS

There are facts and there are falsehoods, and part of our problem today is that we prefer to live in denial than face the most obvious and difficult truths.

Regardless of what you think about family and religion, the facts are that children born into stable two parent families where the couple are married do considerably better than either two parent families where the couple are in a defacto relationship, or single parent families.

Those are easily validated facts.

Yet, you would not find a politician in New Zealand prepared to stand up and advocate for a return to stable and faithful marriages as the best means of combating child abuse, neglect and poverty. Not one. When you can honestly answer why that is the case, we will start to make some progress.

Now I’m glad we live in a society where some of the previous social and religious taboos of the past have gone. I’m delighted my daughters don’t suffer discrimination in the workplace because of their gender. But I do lament the embrace of moral relativism, the loss of virtue, and the growing religion of political correctness that prohibits truth telling for fear of giving offense.

We cannot begin to solve problems until we can agree on the cause. I understand the temptation to blame economic inequality as the ‘root of all evil’ but that is to reduce human beings to mere consumers. We are more than that, much more.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Oh God here we go again. Laura Norder! I knew it as soon as we started on this topic also to crap is going to come up about how things were much better 50 or 100 years ago. Or even earlier. Again, it isn't that simple. For one thing, crime has been going down for the last 30 or 40 years, since the last quarter of the 20th century roughly – all over the developed world. The New Zealand murder rate has halved in the last 20 or so years. We now have less crime than we did in 1989. So before you jump in with your perception of what crime is doing take the time to look at a few statistics and figure out what it actually is doing. Take the time to look at what sort of society we were 100 years ago maybe – largely rural, smaller cities, smaller communities. And then maybe start thinking about how we recorded crime 100 years ago which was a bit different to what we do today. When hitting your wife wasn't a crime, (at least rarely prosecuted – therefore really recorded.) neither was beating up gay people on the whole. And in fact so far as we can tell which isn't easy, with a bit of a blip sometime in the middle of the 20th century until the 1980s or 90s, crime has actually been going down since about 1200 A.D.
Not that I've got anything against supporting families or telling the truth, even though we ALL lie ALL the time – but can we please for once try to base this thing on the science rather than vague impressions and appeals to emotion.

greywarbler said...

We are losing many of the old mores and things are going to hell in a handbasket! But how many are fixed in their minds on what sort of a secular society should we have today? It seems to me it's all about looking right, and dressing appropriately.

What about we form a short declaration of what standards we should have with freedom curtailed slightly, and what statistical levels we should aim for, and acknowledge the sort of things that would prevent this.

It would be a practical level to aim at but not utopian and allowing for human error somewhat.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Regardless of what you think about family and religion, the facts are that children born into stable two parent families where the couple are married do considerably better than either two parent families where the couple are in a defacto relationship, or single parent families."

Yes Brendan, but there are many reasons for living in a single-parent family, one of which is that people sometimes die. And you neglected to mention – naturally – that children living in a two-parent family where one of the parents is abusive or where there is a lot of conflict, do a lot worse than children who are living with a divorced parent. Economic inequality therefore does have an effect. So your solution would be to force incompatible people to live together and to get married? Or deny people the right to get married? You going to enforce some compatibility test? I'm not sure there is one.

In fact, the number of single-parent families was historically consistent with today. In Victorian times, approximately 1/4 of children faced the death of 1 of their parents before they were 15. So your stable two-parent family such as it was in the 1950s is an aberration. And the benefits of actual marriage are somewhat debated, there is a school of thought that suggests that relatively well off and stable people tend to get married more often than those without social capital or funds.

And of course 1 of the main reasons that single parent families'children don't do so well as the fact that they don't have as much money. Something else which you sort of conveniently forgot there. I realise that your religion demands that you blame individuals for their circumstances, even though they have no control over them – but I do think you are taking it a bit far.

The problem is that you can't legislate for stable two-parent families. Well, you might be able to legislate for two-parent families, but you can't legislate for stability. You can only try to help people overcome some of their problems, if they are indeed capable of being overcome. People make mistakes Brendan, and in any large enough group of people there will be a fairly large number of mistakes. So perhaps you'd like to explain exactly what you would do about incompatible or feuding couples? Given that you are dealing with people's emotions, I suspect there ain't much. People just inconveniently fall in love with the wrong person sometimes. And these people sometimes inconveniently have children. You might be able to do something at the margins, but this is basically a given – always has been, always will be. The only difference is, that today women (and it's mostly women) are not forced to stay in abusive relationships, which I have already suggested are bad for kids.

David George said...

I agree Brendan, none of the criminals I encountered were Christian in anything but the most superficial or arbitrary way. I don't believe they came from families that were either although I can't be sure of that in every case. Irrespective of claimed religious affiliation the four main Christian values; respect for the truth, self respect, compassion and forgiveness didn't feature highly either so, yes, there appears to be a moral issue there. Crime has always been largely a young man problem, a group that is decidedly irreligious. Whole societies are not particularly religious but low in crime - Japan or Norway for example. The statistics are massively distorted by other contributing factors: inequality, multiculturalism, urbanisation, unemployment and lack of a clear path and culture for young men towards the responsibilities and rewards of work and family for example but the one consistent factor in my experience is an inability to recognise and articulate the truth and to engage the world in an honest and forthright manner.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm sceptical about religion and its attitude towards families Brendan.
This is the Fox news version of course, because there are some people – not necessarily you – who comment here who wouldn't believe it otherwise. :)

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear GS

I agree that you cannot legislate for stable, married two parent families, but you might reasonably expect those who curate popular culture, including educators and our political leaders to be honest about the fact that not all ‘family structures’ produce the same outcomes; to advocate for those structures that produce the best outcomes, and possibly to incentivise such choices amongst the population?

But that would be discriminatory. We know that to publically favour functional family structures is a bigger social crime than to have thousands of abused children living in dysfunction, abuse and relative poverty. Politicians find it easier to virtue signal by throwing money at a problem, than to summon the courage necessary to make the honest calls.

Western civilization has been historically built upon functional, married two parent families, and relationally ‘thick’ communities that have been underpinned by a well understood religious narrative that provided a moral framework for social interaction.

Was it perfect, hell no, but ask yourself this question. What is our present social trajectory? Are we heading towards the sunny uplands with declining child poverty, neglect, abuse, and criminal offending?

You cannot legislate for moral virtue either, so we better get used to living in a society that is abandoning the concept of ‘loving our neighbour’ in favour of competing and contesting human rights, enforced by an intrusive surveillance state. If we don’t have a policeman in our hearts, we need one on every street corner and in every household.

This will result in a need for more prisons.

I’m not at all hopeful that this trajectory can be reversed, but acknowledging the underlying problem, being truthful about how we arrived at this state would be a useful beginning.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan. I don't know of anyone who doesn't admit that single-parent families are not ideal. I suspect yet again, that you are just "making shit up". It seems to be a conservative trope that progressive people somehow are too politically correct to admit the truth. Still, if you can provide me with someone making a statement to the effect that we should not worry too much about single-parent families, or who is supporting dysfunctional families? I suspect you are possibly mistaking the idea that we should support single-parent families with the idea that we consider them a "good thing". If we are going to have single-parent families, and we are going to no matter what, I believe we should help out those who are struggling to cope. But as I said, kids do better in a single-parent family than in an abusive family. Something you haven't actually addressed.
Something else you haven't addressed is that nonreligious countries do better in this regard than extremely religious ones. There is more to morals than obeying some imaginary being in the sky Brendan. Secular countries have less crime and on the whole, happier people. And they do this partly at least by legislation. So perhaps you can legislate for moral virtue, or at least provide the conditions for moral virtue in your laws.
And these countries all do better than the most religious country in the Western world, the USA. Where indeed, there is a far bigger proportion of Christians in jail and there is of atheists.
So provide me with an example of a religious Western country that is doing well on crime perhaps?

David George said...

Absolutely agree Brendan, the trouble is that these changes are driven by an ideology that has little basis in lived reality, has no track record of success and represents a huge risk of failure. There is active denial of the right to discuss the issues you have raised, including (of all places) at our universities - a sure sign that the concepts are flimsy and contrived. It's concerning that there is so much polarisation and strongly held views (on issues such as the causes and solution of crime) and usually by people that are at a remove from the reality of crime itself or any contact with the criminals. The arguments from the proponents on both sides are often based on ideological positions reinforced by internet trawling for "facts" to support the faulty argument.
Here's a very good clip on the effects of inequality on crime and the development of the mass murderer "Birth of the Criminal Mind" -

Brendan McNeill said...


I doubt we are going to agree on very much, and I note you make several contestable and unsubstantiated assertions that I’m not going to bother with, however like you, I am concerned about single parent families.

I agree that they arise from all kinds of circumstances, and we absolutely should care for women and children who leave an abusive partner, or who are abandoned by a deadbeat husband / father, or who are widowed through the untimely death of a spouse. This was the original intention of the former DPB.

However, the progressive left sought to remove all social stigma from solo parenting and introduced entitlement welfare for all single mothers, regardless of having been in a relationship in the form of marriage, or not. Then they compounded this error by providing increased benefits for additional children born to this mother while she was living on welfare. They were aided in their fecklessness by several National party governments.

At this point, sensing the deserved public backlash at their stupidity, they directed the public’s attention away from the plight of the mother and onto the children. The narrative then became all about ‘child poverty’. This is where we have landed today.

There was research out of Auckland University a couple of years back that showed something like 83% of the 23,000 annual cases of child abuse in NZ came from this cohort. I may not have the numbers exactly right, but they are close enough.

A disproportionate number of these kids then go on to feature in all the negative social indicators, educational failure, worklessness, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, and of course, crime and imprisonment.

This is what passes for compassion in the minds of our politicians.

I put it to you that if any government was serious about reducing the need for prisons, they would stop incentivising single women to give birth following casual sex, and who then go on to produce a disproportionate number of the next generations prisoners. It may take 20 years to see the impact of such policies, but eventually we would see the numbers drop. Yes, I know not all prisoners come from single parent families, but who would bet against this being true for a disproportionately high percentage?

These are hard and (at present) unspeakable facts that our politicians refuse to face.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Absolutely agree Brendan, the trouble is that these changes are driven by an ideology that has little basis in lived reality, has no track record of success and represents a huge risk of failure. "
What changes? What ideology? Evidence of lack of success? Or are you just pulling things out of your arse.

"There is active denial of the right to discuss the issues you have raised, including (of all places) at our universities"

And yet you give as a video clip of a professor of psychology at Toronto University? He doesn't seem to have any trouble discussing the issues.

"usually by people that are at a remove from the reality of crime itself or any contact with the criminals. "

I don't know if you include me in those, but my local pub had a back room which was the haunt of what the police told me was 1 of the 3 biggest criminals in the lower half of the North Island. I've had a lot to do with criminals, from petty thieves through assault, rape and right up to murder. Probably had a lot more to do with criminals than you anyway.
So come up with some actual evidence, or I'm calling bullshit on this. Well I'm calling bullshit on this anyway because it's just the usual Laura Norder.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan. I agree that we are probably not going to agree on very much. But I must say I find it quite frustrating discussing with you, because it goes something like this.

You make several vague unsubstantiated and possibly contestable statements I say possibly, because they are so vague as to be difficult to contest one way or the other.

I reply with some specific examples of why you are wrong, contestable or not. And suggest that perhaps we should look at the science behind crime and what is successful and what isn't.

You reply with more wifflel waffle and refuse to contest my contestability.

So this will be my final statement.
I don't believe that the government incentivises people to have children from casual sex.

I believe that people become solar parents for various reasons, not all of which is their fault, I now believe these people should be helped not condemned. Because contrary to popular myths, most single parents, particularly single mothers are in their 30s and they are single parents because of a marriage breakup rather than casual sex. And if the children of these single parents have problems it's extremely likely that they started way before the marriage breakup. And I find it more than disappointing that you don't address this issue. Of course there is another type of single-parent family, that is single mothers by choice, and the research shows that their children do just as well as anyone else. I can't see how, considering that these women are so arrogant and evil as to want to not have a husband – but there you go.

There are various ways of alleviating the poverty brought about by single parenting, facilitating single mothers into work is one. And I notice you refuse to engage with the poverty aspect of single parenting as regards children's success in later life as well. Again more than disappointing Brendan.

We should perhaps also look at what other countries do with regards to single-parent families, because there are countries where children of single parents don't do that badly. In places like Germany, Austria, Portugal and Italy, the differences between single-parent kids and married with children kids are insignificant. Don't you think we should look at what happens there and try to do something? Or are you just interested in pushing your Judaeo-Christian barrow right across everyone else's science?
Because like it or not, divorce and death are not going away. So perhaps you'd like to explain your answer to that given that it seems to be to force people to live in unhappy marriages – therefore making their children more liable to criminal behaviour.

I believe we should also look at those countries which are successful in rehabilitating criminals and have managed to reduce their recidivism rates, and see if their methods can be adapted to New Zealand conditions. These countries are mostly secular in nature, and their methods are secular rather than religious.

It would be really nice if you address these points Brendan, because I simply can't see what you want to do.

David George said...

Guerilla Surgeon, I don't know why you decided to take my comments personally, no need to be offended. I was referring to the danger of instituting extreme, unproven social change from both sides of the political spectrum. We have millions of years of embodied evolutionary derived adaptive faculty and thousands of years of knowledge attained by the real life experience of our ancestors. Ignore that at your extreme peril is my message.
Re the attempts to suppress free speech, there is considerable concern world wide at developments including the no platforming of controversial speakers and anyone that doesn't subscribe to an entrenched orthodoxy. You may have missed it but last year a number of prominent Kiwis wrote an open letter decrying restrictions such as efforts to shut down non PC views such as pro-life and European culture supporters at Auckland university.

You might also like to consider the case of Lindsay Shepherd in Canada. The tape of her interrogation should send shivers down the spine of any one that has respect for our liberal western traditions and the divinity of free thought and speech.
Here's me old mate Dangerfield on that one:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"We have millions of years of embodied evolutionary derived adaptive faculty and thousands of years of knowledge attained by the real life experience of our ancestors. Ignore that at your extreme peril is my message."
We also have actual scientific research, which shows what works and what doesn't. Which in my mind trumps thousands of years of grandma's so-called common sense. Because if we went by "real-life experience" my mother would still be shoving onions soaked in honey down my throat every time I got a cold. There are countries out there that do better than us when it comes to crime, rehabilitation and incarceration. And there are countries that do a lot worse, though not much in the developed world. All I'm saying is that perhaps it would be nice if we followed the countries that did well, rather than trying to emulate the US and bang up every kid who smokes a joint – thereby turning them into an instant criminal.

As far as de-platforming is concerned, I have some sympathy, but some of those people who are allegedly de-platformed move beyond free speech into hate speech. So bugger 'em. Free speech is in fact simply an agreement between the government and the people that the government will not prosecute or persecute them for things they say – most of the things they say anyway, because it's never absolute. It doesn't say that eejits have to be given a platform. Particularly not in this day and age where every man and his racist/misogynist/fascist dog can get themselves a YouTube channel and crap on for hours about how Blacks/Jews/feminists/gay people have ruined their lives and should be put in prison or whatever. God knows I've stumbled across enough of them and their little fan boys. Nothing to stop them hiring a hall and delivering a speech to whoever wants to come. Although I must confess I know more about the situation in the US, where progressive people are being de-platformed by nutty religious "universities." I think they should get a YouTube channel as well to be honest. Or find a place that would welcome them.

David Stone said...

GS and Brendon
I have a stepdaughter with 3 small children who announced a few months ago that when friends worry about a possible broken home effect on children , she says. " I have a reconstituted family" " all the changes were positive". "I lost nothing and only gained" .
This is possible. It just depends on all the adult participants making the welfare of children the priority.And enabling all the relationships with children to continue.
The DPB has allowed unacceptable relationships to be terminated. It is a wonderful mercy to many women trapped in an abusive relationship by poverty to be free. Sure it gets abused in some instances , but this function was progress in civilisation.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

David. Couldn't agree more. (Dammit AutoCorrect that should be solo parents not solar parents in my post above but I can't be bothered redoing it.) It's sort of tiring arguing with Brendan because there's nothing he says that you can really get a grip on. Christ, all I'm saying is let's look at the science and see what works – but that's not good enough obviously. We have to do what normal fundagelical Christians do and that's ignore the fucking science and impose our religious views on every other bugger. Sorry, needed to vent.

David Stone said...

Best to vent at me.
No damage then.
Cheers D J S