About This Blog - "The Youth Justice Story"

by Communications Manager, Henwood Trust, 21 February 2011

This blog is new. It’s the start of a journey.

It aims to bring New Zealand’s youth justice story in front of ordinary, thinking Kiwis who haven’t been exposed to it much.

It starts from the recognition that crime in New Zealand is unacceptably high, and that new thinking is needed to deal with it. Locking up more and more people, and hoping that one day we’ll wake up to a crime-free society, is just emotional, superficial thinking.

Already we are second only to the USA in the proportion of our citizens in prison. That’s a national disgrace.

Why are our numbers so high? Is it because New Zealanders are essentially more criminally-inclined than the rest of the world?

Or is it that we are we too ready to lock more and more people up? That we lack the necessary early intervention for young offenders, and creative diversionary policies to keep first time offenders out of jail? Is the public unaware of the underlying issues, and unduly receptive to emotive slogans as we saw with the “three strikes” approach?

As a responsible and caring society we have to do better than throw our young offenders behind bars at the first transgression. Many – maybe most of these kids are victims themselves. Victims of multi-generational broken families, with no parenting skills, endemic substance abuse, serial unemployment, and lack of hope. Beaten as a matter of course by people who are supposed to love them. Hideous though some of their crimes undoubtedly are, can’t we as a society find something more constructive to do with them? Demonstrably, the current mix of policies is failing.

“The Youth Justice Story” aims to bring these issues into the consciousness of mainstream, thinking New Zealand. We want to make youth justice a topic of conversation. We don’t have all the answers, but we have access to a lot of facts, and we do know the questions that need asking.

We’ll be talking to many people – workers in the sector, policy makers, young offenders themselves and more. We’ll publish the results on this blog. And we’ll welcome, and publish, your feedback.

New Zealand’s kids, including the at-risk young offenders, are too important to our future to have their fate determined in a vacuum of public opinion or reduced to sloganeering. There’s an information gap that we plan to fill. Come along with us.

Opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Henwood Trust nor its Trustees.

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