Saturday 25 August 2018

The Summit Of Folly: Why ‘Middle New Zealand” Will Have The Last Word On Crime And Punishment.

Little Proposes, Middle New Zealand Disposes: If nothing else, the Justice Summit has shown Andrew Little what he is up against. The anger and hurt of Maori. The anxious attempts of various state institutions to meet the often contradictory expectations of their political masters. And last – but by no means least – the inescapable reality of “Middle New Zealand’s” veto: it’s indisputable power and its implacable determination to have the final say.

ANDREW LITTLE must be wondering whether his Justice Summit was worth it. Encounters between practitioners of deliberative democracy and participants in direct democracy are seldom trouble free. How could they be? Deliberators are elected, while participants in direct democratic forums are often self-selected, or, even worse, the delegates of special interest groups. By the time the Justice Summit drew to a close it was very clear that the formal practices of deliberative democracy and direct democracy’s roiling currents of passion and conviction had only Little in common.

If nothing else, the experience will have shown Little what he is up against. The anger and hurt of Maori. The radical programmes with which the latter propose to empty the prisons of their disproportionate ethnic muster. The anxious attempts of the various state institutions tasked with managing crime and punishment to generate outcomes that meet the often contradictory expectations of their political masters. And last – but by no means least – the inescapable reality of “Middle New Zealand’s” veto: it’s indisputable power and its implacable determination to have the final say.

That power was on full display in the opening hours of the Summit when Jayne Crothall, whose three year old daughter, Brittany, was murdered as she slept in 1997, was reported as breaking down in tears when a Maori woman claimed Pakeha did not know what it was like to be victimised.

“This has been a horrendous summit for victims of crime”, Crothall told the 700 Summit participants “People have been told they don’t know what it is like to be a victim because they’re European. There have been a lot of racist comments made. I have never heard so much racism.”

Sadly, it is Jayne Crothall’s words that Middle New Zealand will take away from the Justice Summit. Her accusations of racism will be amplified across the country by the Sensible Sentencing Trust who are also likely to highlight the words of University of Canterbury criminologist, Greg Newbold, who boycotted the whole event as a waste of time and told RNZ National that if Little is serious about reducing the prison muster, then he should “build more prisons and end double-bunking”.

Middle New Zealand: overwhelmingly Pakeha; gainfully employed; living in their own homes; law-abiding and tax-paying; is temperamentally impatient (if not contemptuous) of sociological and historical explanations for Maori offending. To their ears, the arguments of academics and “experts” about poverty and colonisation come across as sounding suspiciously like excuses.

Which is why nearly all of the evidence of Maori suffering will have been, at best, half-heard by Middle New Zealand. At worst, it will be taken as proof of the “Maarees’” manifest deficiencies as citizens. By contrast, and simply because they chime so completely with their own deep-seated prejudices, Jayne Crothall’s words will not only be heard, but they will also be remembered and angrily repeated. Such is the power of Pakeha confirmation bias.

The thing to remember about all of the colonial societies in which the settlers have triumphed demographically, is that the over-representation of the colonised in the criminal justice and prison systems will be welcomed, consciously or unconsciously, by the settlers as proof that their culture is still on top. Were only 15-16 percent of prison inmates Maori (i.e. the muster matched the percentage of New Zealanders identifying as Maori) a number (probably a distressingly large number) of Pakeha would interpret the statistic as evidence that the Police and the Courts were not doing their jobs.

Of course, Andrew Little can’t say that: not if he wants his party to win the next election. What’s more, the Labour-NZF-Green Government cannot even be seen to be addressing the gross over-representation of Maori in New Zealand’s prison system to aggressively. Middle New Zealand’s tolerance threshold runs out at the notion of convicted criminals being rehabilitated outside prison walls. They will accept intensifying rehabilitation efforts behind bars, and many would accept the desirability of every prisoner having their own cell. What they will not accept is criminals being “set loose in the community” before they have demonstrated conclusively that it is safe to release them.

That’s why Greg Newbold advised Andrew Little to “build more prisons and end double-bunking”. Because he is shrewd enough (as both an ex-con and an academic expert) to know that his is the only formula which Middle New Zealand (the people who determine the outcome of general elections) is ready to accept.

That Little gets this was illustrated by his last-minute offer to hold a special summit for the victims of crime. It’s a terrible idea. Such a gathering will, almost certainly, morph into a no-holds-barred display of Middle New Zealand’s retributive instincts. Little will be ordered to keep on doing everything that his just-concluded Justice Summit begged him to stop doing. The racist arbiters of crime and punishment in New Zealand will jubilantly exercise their political veto – and, God forgive them, Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern will comply.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 24 August 2018.


peteswriteplace said...

Too much bullshit is said and written.

greywarbler said...

OMG Chris that sounds prophetic from you. I think that government and Andrew Little need to start every comment with reference to the fact that the government wants to reduce crime, and its efforts will be to both reduce it and to reduce recidivism. And that prison is not going to be a place of punishment, but a place for people to learn a new way of living their life, and how to atone to society for their behaviour. And that the present systems are too expensive, and have failed, and both these factors are unsatisfactory. The public deserve better systems for dealing with criminals, and so the government will not follow strident calls for harder sentences. It has listened to concerns from various sectors of society and will set up a working group with people who want to do practical work to meet all concerns.

People like Kim Workman and intelligent judges and spokespeople for gangs and Greg Newbold for instance, would be valuable. The minds of demagogues from Sensible Sentencing Trust would be too upset to be involved in frank discussions prior to drawing up possible models and assessing them. Later their views could be sought and gathered under headings which would then be prioritised as being most effective to least, and their reasons for thinking so. Having to think about this problem without tearful emotions would be a useful skill for them to acquire.

Jayne Crothall's three year old daughter had been killed 21 years ago, and I wondered why she was attending the Forum with this at the front of her mind. In 1997 Luke Frederick Sibley - then 18 - suffocated and strangled Brittany Crothall, 3, while she slept at her home in New Brighton, Christchurch.
He then entered the bedroom of the toddler's mother, Jayne Crothall, and attacked her with a hammer and a knife.

This was an horrific attack, and especially must have troubled Jayne Crothall who had misjudged the mental health of her friend's son, when she allowed him into her home. But I see Jayne Crothall - who is a spokesperson for the Sensible Sentencing Trust - stood amid a crowd of around 700 to say she had been attacked over race.

It seems to me that the SST was using her as a sacrificial lamb to illustrate their constant grievance about the harm they have suffered and the ongoing grief. This sadness must result in compassion for them, but if the SST and the Maori who share their sadness can meet and express their concern to each other and then vow to work together for a better future, then both could move to consider and implement ideas for it and even work together instead of rejecting each other.

The death of a young child reminded me of the sensational USA murder case of the age six lovely award-winning model She was murdered in her house but there was no obvious racial type it could be pinned on. There were plenty of suspects:
It was determined that there had been more than 100 burglaries in the Ramseys' neighborhood in the months before JonBenét's murder. There were 38 registered sex offenders living within a two-mile (3 km) radius of the Ramseys' home. The parents themselves were under suspicion, then the nine year old brother. To date the murderer does not seem to have ever been identified.

It is very cynical of pakeha to choose Maori Or Pacific Islanders to demonise for crime in general. Middle class and wealthy people will be guilty also though to a lesser degree. It is poverty of body, mind and spirit and having bad role models that is the major factor leading to criminal behaviour. Social media at present is at the base of much antisocial behaviour, and I believe future criminal activity will be connected with its insidious spread of immoral and sociopathic behaviour.

Anonymous said...

Which of Crowthalls comments are untrue? A mother loses he 2 year old to a murderer, and is told she is 'priviged' and doesn't know what it's like to be victimized. Do you think this is acceptable?Being told what she is allowed to think or say because of what she is is the very definition of racism.

Nick J said...

How thoroughly depressing. Middle New Zealand's retributive attitude is totally understandable, as is the disproportionate Maori incarceration rate a fact.

We are not one people, and won't ever be unless we present our citizens with equality of opportunity at the base level. Opportunity to learn at school with a full stomach and warm dry footwear. A vision of a possible future for all, apprenticeships etc, not just "degrees" with debt and no jobs. Education about the history of all this country's cultures, nobody special or excluded. Universal access and delivery of health regardless of ability to pay.

Ranganui Walker once said that our problems with race would be cured between the bedsheets, soon as is already too late. If we cure the Maori prison roll and don't cure the inequality of opportunity we will only create another underclass over represented in jails. And it all starts with hungry kids with no demonstrably possible vision of what they can be, and how to get there.

We need to persuade middle NZ that there is a better way.

John Hurley said...

"Anti-depressants don't help you if you're at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy. How could they? You're not depressed. You just have an awful life. That is not the same thing." Jordan Peterson

Unknown said...

I share Middle New Zealand's scepticism towards sociological and historical explanations / excuses for high rates of criminal offending by Maori.

The economic and social marginalisation are sad facts of our history and our present.

What most of us would like to hear are viable solutions.

And if anyone trots out the iwi-hapu-whanau mantra, I will puke.

We have had decades of culturally based programmes for Maori offenders and they haven't made the slightest impact.

Solutions anyone?

I freely admit that I have none.

And until someone does find a solution we ARE going to have to build more prisons.

John Hurley said...

here is a native American talking about stories, including the victim model (as in "we are a colonised people")

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny, of all the people in the US and Europe that caused the economic meltdown in 2008, many of which admitted to breaking various laws – few if any were prosecuted. Certainly no one higher up the middle management. And yet they probably caused more chaos and disruption of people's lives than the burglar who climbs in your window and rips off your stereo. Who if caught, will be punished to the extent of the law. White-collar crime seems under punished to me. Just sayin'.

sumsuch said...

Greg the ( guy-who-was-in-prison) criminologist has a dim view of all reformation except more room via more prisons. Doesn't think Scandi stats are comparable, or believable. I hope Andrew Little KNOWS better, to go with his admirable fearlessness. I expect our ministers to die early from hard work. Like the least of us. Says one not worthy of either.

sumsuch said...

Newbold. This imperial language of English is brilliant. Yet, hardly anyone's.

sumsuch said...

I don't agree Greg Newbold did it for that reason. You must establish he's the creature of the drippy self-interested middle class. Which I meet all the time. God, how the working class loved reality back in the day. Like drink on a dry day.

peteswriteplace said...

Go brown Andrew, and see how the white responds.

Brendan McNeill said...

In all of this no one appears willing to mention the elephant in the room. How many of our current prisoner cohort come from married two parent functional families?

Labour will never go near that question as far too many of its activists have been working to deconstruct marriage and the natural family for decades. To be fair, there isn't a politician on either side of the divide who will speak of family in anything other than the broadest and most inclusive terms.

Yet, not all family structures produce the same outcomes for their children. This will surprise no-one really, yet it's unsayable.

Nothing will change with respect to our prisoner population until we start having this conversation.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah Brendan I see you back with your hobbyhorse. Unfortunately, it's difficult to separate the effects of single parentage from other effects such as poverty, drug use, and physical and mental abuse. Certainly poverty is a prime indicator for criminality. Children of relatively well off single parents don't commit crime nearly as much as those who are brought up in poverty. Anyway, proper research in that area would involve bringing up kids in similar situations some with one parent some with two. And I'm assuming that even you would consider that unethical.
You also fail to mention that one of the biggest correlations with criminality is incarceration. As is growing up with a stepparent, because blended families also tend to be poorer. And the strongest predictor is growing up in state care. And of course incarceration causes single parent families – a lot.
And I don't think somehow that this is an elephant in the room and that it is simply being ignored. The only problem is that your colleagues in the National party don't believe in supporting single-parent families so that they can take a proper and equal part in society. And I doubt if this centrist labour government will do a hell of a lot to alleviate that.