Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Putting the boot into boot camps

Putting the boot into boot camps

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crime n law n order

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The genesis of National’s “boot camps” lay in a January 2008 document,  “A Fresh Start for New Zealand “,

They will be designed to give young offenders what they need to make a fresh start – structure, routine, clear boundaries, intensive support and a sense of self-discipline and personal responsibility.  

The programmes will last up to one year and will include up to three months of residential training at, for example, army facilities. Young people sentenced to Fresh Start Programmes will be intensively supervised by high-quality staff dedicated to getting them back on track.   

Fresh Start Programmes will be designed to address the problems underlying a young person’s offending and may include, for example, drug and alcohol rehab, outdoor and physical fitness training, literacy and numeracy teaching and work towards NCEA credits, teamwork exercises, and reinforcement of community values.”

See: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Six months later, the policy was re-iterated in another election-oriented document – this time included in a mish-mash of  “get-tough-on-young-hoodlums” policies. The policies were highly punitive – basically  “raw meat” politics for National’s core voter-base (as blogger, Bomber Bradbury correctly assesses it).

The one difference was that the Nats had put a costing to their boot camp ideas; $35 million a year.

To really frighten the voters, John Key said in his  opening paragraph,

We need to urgently deal with the kids who pose a serious threat to the security of our communities.”

See: 2008 – Policy on Youth Justice

Serious threat “?! Wow! These kids from (mostly) troubled homes must come armed with weapons of mass destruction?

It doesn’t take a PH.D in psychology to realise that the policies do  pretty much sweet F A to address root causes of troubled youth. A mental image of a sticky plaster on a gaping raw red wound comes to mind.

But at least we now knew how much of our taxes the Tories intended to throw at this problem; $35 million.

Responses to National’s boot camp proposals ranged from the wide-eyed enthusiastic – to the eye-rolling dismissive.

Garth McVicar from the so-called “Sensible Sentencing Trust ” waxed lyrically,

Call it what you will – discipline, accountability, responsibility works. We’ve just become politically correct and operating a social experiment. It’s been a dismal disaster. I think what John Key is putting out there is the first time I have seen a political party offer some constructive policy which I believe will turn this around.”

See: Support for National’s boot camp

McVicar used all the right phaseology; “politically correct ” and “social experiment “.  So he must be correct, eh?

Even Kim Workman – a more liberal, common-sense  advocate of sentencing reform and director of the Prison Fellowship – supported the “Fresh Start ” programme, and  said,

A recent international review of prisons and boot camps confirms earlier research – that they have no positive impact on offenders and usually result in an increase in recidivism.

Fresh Start, on the other hand, promises to use the most advanced expertise in youth offending that New Zealand has to offer, and describes an environment which provides a mix of accountability and support.”

One of the reasons for the failure of earlier programmes … has been the lack of support and mentoring after the offender completes the sentence. The policy has recognised this as an issue and that’s a promising start.”

See: IBID

By April 2009, Mr Workman’s disappointment in Key’s “Fresh Start” programme became public,

When John Key announced the ‘Fresh Start’ programme in March 2008, he stated that that he would use “the best expertise in youth intervention that New Zealand has to offer.” Those experts included people like Dr Ian Lambie, Dr John Langley, Professor John Werry, Professor David Fergusson, Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft – and they have all have spoken with one voice against the proposal. Yesterday, a wide range of organisations joined the chorus – including Unicef, Barnardos, the Families Commission, the NZ Council of Christian Social Services, NZ Law Society, and the Mental Health Commission. There will be more organisations joining in the criticism in the weeks to follow.

The proposal was also heavily criticised at three significant conferences in the last two months – Victoria Universities Institute of Policy Studies Conference on ‘Causes of Crime’, the Taumata Whanonga Hui on Behaviour Management in Schools, and the Ministerial Committee on the Drivers of Crime. At each forum, there was a clear consensus against the proposal.”

Programmes like Fresh Start are not new, as the government suggests. When traditional boot camps didn’t work in the USA, ‘second generation boot camps were developed; military type training that ‘added on’ mentoring, post release support, drug and alcohol treatment and so on. What the research shows clearly is that they were no more successful than their predecessor.”

The experts have spoken with one voice – it’s a pity they weren’t consulted before the government decision was made to proceed with the programme. The $35m could be much more effectively spent on early intervention programmes which address the underlying causes of crime. These same people are able to assist government to put together interventions that work – if government is prepared to listen.”

See: Government Response to Boot Camp Critics Disappointing

Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft was quite adamant, “we overwhelmingly know it doesn’t work“.

The offenders were better fed, healthier, stronger and faster but they were still offenders. Putting together young people with disorder problems and cannabis dependency meant their treatment and rehabilitation took twice as long as sustained intervention in the community.

See: Judge says ‘boot camp’ treatment doesn’t work

Unfortunately,  when it comes to a choice between mindless  ideology or common sense and experience by those working at the “coal face”, National will always opt for the former; mindless ideology. It  must be hard-wired into their DNA – right next to their dominant Stupid Gene.

A year later, in November 2010, the first ten young “graduated” from National’s boot camps. John Key met them personally and announced with glee,

I’m impressed with the way the 10 young men who graduated today have stepped up to the challenge presented to them.

Each of these young men has the potential to turn his life around, and this camp has given them all some tools to make that happen.

I want serious young offenders to have every chance to turn their lives around and reach their true potential.

These camps are tough – and that is how they should be. They also give young people the skills they need to change their behaviour and move into the workforce so they can make a positive contribution to our communities.

This Government introduced Fresh Start legislation to hold young offenders to account and encourage self responsibility.

The next phase is critical, but these young men will get the support and encouragement they need to keep moving forward.”

See: PM encourages fresh start for young people

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was also present at the Christchurch “graduation ceremony”, and said,

They will face challenges and temptations but I’m backing them because I believe if they work hard they can turn their lives around.”

Of two boot camp “classes” in 2009 and 2010, involving seventeen youths, the results by July 2011 – three years after the ‘launch’ of National’s Policy on Youth Justice, the results were revealed to the people of New Zealand. Said results were hardly “flash”.

  • fifteen of  seventeen youth offenders had  reoffended,
  • four of the seventeen were in jail,
  • in a weak attempt at positive ‘spin’, the MSD report stated that “eight of the fifteen who had reoffended did so less frequently than before, and nine committed less serious offences than before”.  Hooray.

See: Most boot camp youths have reoffended

Bizarrely, Assistant Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, said that  “there was no magic wand that could be waved to instantly fix the problems with the country’s most troubled young people”.

MACs are the last ditch attempt to turn these kids around and stop them heading to adult prison and a life of crime.”

See: IBID

Which leads one to the inescapable conclusion that National simply has no idea. Not a clue.

Bennett added,

This Government is determined to keep trying to break entrenched offending.”

See: IBID

Hmmm, I doubt that.

Especially when the epic fail of 2011 seems to have been repeated this year.

On 11 December, National and it’s bureacrats refused to allow further release of information regarding the boot camp programme. A report by Fairfax media stated,

Requests for information about the 78 participants in the seven camps run since were refused by both the Ministry for Social Development and its Associate Minister Chester Borrows, who said making public the information about the “nature of offences or offending” could identify the youth involved.

When queried if this was because the crimes were high profile, such as homicide or rape, the minister declined to answer.

See: Minister keeps a lid on boot camp failure figures

Yeah. I’ll bet he wanted to refuse to answer.

Because Associate Social Development, Minister Chester Borrows knew full well that the following intake of “participants” would also yield similarly shocking poor results.

A report by TVNZ News a month later, on 14 December, showed us the reason by Mr Burrows was so ‘shy’ in releasing the figures.

Of the 31 young people who completed and left a Military-style Activity Camp (MAC) prior to April 2012, 19 reoffended in the first six months after finishing the camp, according to  CYF (Child, Youth and Family).

According to Kim Workman,

When you consider that two-thirds reoffend after six months, what we’re saying is after two years that figure is likely to increase to 85% – 90% which is pretty near what you’d expect if you did nothing at all.

When it was announced it was highlighted as a major part of the Fresh Start programme, and the military type thing captured the public imagination, because many people have had an experience of that kind and have benefited from it.

You’ve got very serious young offenders, many of them have drug and alcohol problems, about 20% probably, have foetal alcohol spectrum disorder – these are the sort of kids who aren’t going to take orders and understand the consequences of their actions.

The effort is wasted on them. It’s a question of where do you want to put your money, and it seems bootcamp is not the place to invest large amounts of taxpayers’ money.”

See: Boot camps criticised over re-offending rates

To which Minister Chester Borrows still claimed that “overall the Fresh Start reforms have had a positive effect on young offenders”.

Fresh Start is about getting smarter in how we deal with young offenders. While it is still early days, these results are an encouraging indication that we’re on the right track.”

See: IBID

He has to say that. Any admission that National’s boot camp programme was failing young people and  wasting time and taxpayer’s money, would also be a public  admission that National had implemented a badly flawed policy.

And if boot camps was a flawed policy – what else has John Key implemented that was also poorly thought out and not delivering results?

Perhaps their job creation policy?

National will probably persevere with the policy and then quietly drop it. They cannot afford more statistics of failure such as the last three years have been delivering. Not when other negative statistics such as rising unemployment; increasing migration to Australia; business collapses; near-zero economic growth; a housing shortage; etc, etc are still appearing in our media on a daily basis.

Expect boot camps to be given the boot. (Or “amalgamated” into other programmes.)

Which will then leave National with a serious conundrum; how do they address this country’s worsensing and deepening underbelly of poverty, resultant hopelessness, alienation, and anti-social youth?

National does not believe in State intervention in social matters (except where it concerns beneficiary bashing). They call it “nanny state” government.

But they will have to intervene and look at new measures to combat growing social problems.

That will put them on a collision course with their voter base – many of whom are conservative, right-wing, low-information, and disapproving of  “big government” and “Nanny State”.

As ‘Bomber Bradbury’ said with his usual insight on his blog, Tumeke,

This Government is not about empirical evidence, it’s about raw meat reactionary ignorance for their rump voter base. National’s voter base hate young criminals and especially hate young brown criminals, as far as National’s rump are concerned the fact these crims can still walk and breath is too good for them. The idea of running them ragged through a boot camp pleases National Party spite, and that’s all that matters.

The course doesn’t need to actually work, and it doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t, what’s important is the perception that young crims are being disciplined and given a hard time in a military boot camp.

Rehabilitation is considered a weak cop out by National rump voters, they want to see these teens in chain ganged orange jumpsuits, breaking rocks on the side of the road singing Old Man River.”

See: Labour are wrong – Youth Boot Camps a screaming National Party success

This will be interesting.

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

The same could be said of most right wing policies.

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Sources

National Party: A Fresh Start for New Zealand (29 Jan 2008)

National Party: 2008 – Policy on Youth Justice (17 July 2008)

NZ Herald: Support for National’s boot camp (3 Jan 2008)

Kim Workman: Government Response to Boot Camp Critics Disappointing (30 April 2009)

NZ Herald: Judge says ‘boot camp’ treatment doesn’t work (14 May 2009)

National Party: PM encourages fresh start for young people (29 Nov 2010)

Fairfax Media: Key meets first boot camp graduates (29 Nov 2010)

NZ Herald: Most boot camp youths have reoffended (20 July 2011)

Fairfax Media: Minister keeps a lid on boot camp failure figures (11 Nov 2012)

NZ Herald: Half of boot camp youths continue to offend – report (13 Dec 2012)

TVNZ: Boot camps criticised over re-offending rates (14 Dec 2012)

Other blogs

The Standard: Boot camps yet another Key failure (15 Feb 2011)

The Standard: Choices, choices: pointless boot camps (17 April 2012)

Tumeke: Labour are wrong – Youth Boot Camps a screaming National Party success (14 Dec 2012)

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= fs =

  1. 17 December 2012 at 12:53 am

    $35m per year would go a long way to making sure everyone going to low decile schools is fed which would probably do a hell of a lot to help those kids from disturbed homes and thus likely to reduce the crime that they engage in.

  2. 17 December 2012 at 11:15 am

    Also solving the christchurch schools problem .

    Not to mention the above.

  3. Sentient Headmounted Laser
    17 December 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I once saw a documentary about the benefits of sending youths to military-style regimented education and correction. Dunno what the conclusion was though, BECAUSE IT WAS IN FUCKING GERMAN.

    • 17 December 2012 at 6:16 pm

      I can guess that the neo-nazi movement in that country would’ve been rubbing their hands in glee; military training for angry, unemployed, dissaffected youth… all courtesy of the taxpayer, as well. Charming stuff.

      • Sentient Headmounted Laser
        17 December 2012 at 6:37 pm

        You know as well as I do that
        a) it’s just to get “TROUBLESOME YOOFS” off the street and out of the view of middle class landowners.
        b) it doesn’t work because the kids have no direction once the camp is over and recidivism is around 80%, whereas outreach programs have less than 20% recidivism.

      • Sentient Headmounted Laser
        17 December 2012 at 6:40 pm

        Helping people feed themselves when between jobs? IMMORAL
        Beating kids into line? MORAL.

  4. Cameron H
    17 December 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Everything. There is not a god damn thing that he seems to have accomplished

  5. Ralph Lawrence
    17 December 2012 at 5:30 pm

    That dimwitted debacle was a crock from the get go. Only narrow minded bigots and NACT voters would be gullible enough to buy it.

  6. 17 December 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Saw your letter in DomPost this morning. Well expressed.

  7. 17 December 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Boot camp failure… Cool , that was over 1 million per kid. The interest alone would have paid them a grand a week for the rest of their lives. Who exactly charged this amount? Seems like a rort as well as a failure.

  8. Melissia
    17 December 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Put john key on the boot camp and make him suffer. Wtf mr key thinks giving no youth a chance only to be told to do a dumb boot camp . Wtf that is failing us young . There needs to be more job oppunterities to the nz kiwi youth instead of giving the bloody asians our jobs . This is a another national bashing session

  9. Andrew
    17 December 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Glenn Cassidy :

    Boot camp failure… Cool , that was over 1 million per kid. The interest alone would have paid them a grand a week for the rest of their lives. Who exactly charged this amount? Seems like a rort as well as a failure.

    I not reading the article I just like what you said Glenn

  10. Taura
    17 December 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Awesome. More wasted money. Just put the little clowns into the army to learn some discipline, respect and a trade. Keep them out of prison, which would save hundreds of thousands. Catch them early. Stop their shit on the spot. No jail, no learning how to do it better next time. Don’t have to pay them for the first few years.

  11. Matthew TJ
    17 December 2012 at 8:17 pm

    The funny thing is that it was just a retread of a National Govt programme from the 80s. My criminal law lecturer told us in 1985 that it was stopped because it only produced fit criminals. A generation later it gets wheeled out again as a vote-catcher with the same result. If people really want to reduce crime they should get the police to concentrate on catching offenders and not obsess about the punishment meted out to the small percentage who get caught.

  12. Mick
    17 December 2012 at 8:40 pm

    “what else has John Key implemented that was also poorly thought out and not delivering results?” EVERY FUCKING THING he touches…He is like Midas but instead of everything he touches turning to Gold …it turns to shit …seriously what have they done that has survived past the first “announcement” ?

  13. Andrew
    17 December 2012 at 8:49 pm

    how about prevention? seems more and more common that the government services are more interested in dealing with the crime and fallout of the crime than prevention of the crime. Oh time for an Andrew conspiracy ………….. could the government be more interested in dealing with the crime and the fall out of the crime than the prevention of the crime because the public vote on achievements seen not on achievements not seen?

  14. Citizen Gee
    17 December 2012 at 9:40 pm

    It was a crazy idea to start with. As if a few weeks in a boot camp could undo twenty years of upbringing in dysfunctional families.

    Bradbury was right on the mark; this was more about pandering to National’s moronic voter base rather than actually trying to achieve anything concrete.

  15. JM
    17 December 2012 at 10:14 pm

    The Boot camps policy was never about effectiveness or efficacy – it was always ever all about scoring political brownie points during an election campaign. Actually, that describes most of the NActs’ policies…

  16. 17 December 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Boot camps isn’t just a National or John Key idea, it is a red-neck right-wing idea conceived by self-righteous ignorant bigots. It is also fundamentally flawed based on psychology, professional rehabilitation protocols, human development, sociology and a human beings overwhelming desire to be ‘free’. People need love and guidance not disrespect and control. What frustrates me the most is the professional health and rehabilitation care these ‘mostly abused’ young offenders are entitled to under ACC, health and justice legislation is completely ignored. Just shows you how corrupt our politicians are, cause this information is easily accessed for any person to look up and work out – shit I did – which is why I fight so passionately.

    • 19 December 2012 at 9:06 pm

      Well said, JR.

      And keep fighting passionately. God knows we need more New Zealanders like you! *Big Thumbs Up*

  17. 17 December 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I tried to remain positive for the day, but there are just some things too annoying (and costly) to ignore.

  18. 17 December 2012 at 11:39 pm

    i think they are more interested in providing businesses opportunities to suckle at the taxpayers teat. They would rather spend 35m on 31 problem kids than provide 35m to services that might prevent the problems or feeding hungry kids for example..

  19. D O
    18 December 2012 at 9:16 am

    this sort of policy might work for some… but not the many…

  20. Jennifer M
    18 December 2012 at 3:53 pm

    NO…..MAKE RETIERMENT COMPULSERY at 65, that would solve the problem of youth unemployment. Why SHOULD GRANDMA and GRANDPA , still work beyond 65, AND!!!!!!!! STILL RECIEVE THE FULL!!!!!!!pension, while OUR youth are being sent to boot camp!!!!!

    • Murray Olsen
      18 December 2012 at 5:47 pm

      I don’t agree with stopping old people from working. It would be better to cut the working week for everyone and start massive programs for such things as building state houses. The problem isn’t lack of work; it’s lack of profit making opportunities for the capitalist class. We need a government that runs things in our interest for once.

      • Kris R
        18 December 2012 at 6:06 pm

        iuf they working and collecting national super I am afraid Murray i dont agree.

  21. Kris R
    18 December 2012 at 4:09 pm

    ^ what she said :p

  22. Murray Olsen
    18 December 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Having National Super as a universal benefit is a bit stupid. If it were targetted, those who need it could get more. On the other hand, a contributory scheme would be far better anyway. Another one of Muldoon’s fuckups.

  23. Kris R
    18 December 2012 at 6:22 pm

    i know some oldies here who are raking it in.. renting houses they own out, + national super and they still work- time to stand aside so others can have a go @ working

  24. Kris R
    18 December 2012 at 6:23 pm

    thats who i am focusing my greed comment @……

    • Murray Olsen
      18 December 2012 at 6:28 pm

      They’re part of the capitalist class. I don’t care what happens to them, but they shouldn’t be getting super.

      • Kris R
        18 December 2012 at 6:40 pm

        there are alot here so i would imagine theres alot scattered all over NZ.be interesting to see how many there are and how much $ could be saved… im over benes gettin stomped on and the supers dont……agreed there are some supers doin it hard and i feel for them but theres alot in retirement towns who aint

  25. Murray Olsen
    18 December 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Those are all the Tory ones. They deserve nothing.

  26. 19 December 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Allan Alach (@allanalach) :

    Saw your letter in DomPost this morning. Well expressed.

    @ Allan Alach – thank you, Allan.

  27. 19 December 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Novopay is an obvious example

  28. Clive @ large
    28 December 2012 at 10:49 am

    Kay Jones :

    Novopay is an obvious example

    +1

  29. Clive @ large
    28 December 2012 at 10:50 am

    JM :

    The Boot camps policy was never about effectiveness or efficacy – it was always ever all about scoring political brownie points during an election campaign. Actually, that describes most of the NActs’ policies…

    +1

  30. Simon K
    11 January 2013 at 2:34 am

    This is a similar program to the Hitler Youth

  31. 18 January 2013 at 10:43 am

    Glenn Cassidy :
    i think they are more interested in providing businesses opportunities to suckle at the taxpayers teat. They would rather spend 35m on 31 problem kids than provide 35m to services that might prevent the problems or feeding hungry kids for example..

    That comment is just so damn right on the button .

    Typical right wing philosophy suck the tax payer dry by taking away public services and give it to there business mates who charge us twice or three times the price.

    Just look at the power compaines how much more or less would we paying for our power compared to the 1980’s if things had stayed the same.

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