21 Jul 2011

Merit in boot camps but extra step needed - Judge

9:41 pm on 21 July 2011

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft says military style camps will not reduce re-offending on their own.

A progress report on the eight month old Fresh Start scheme shows that just four of the 17 young people who took part in two pilot military camps went on to prison. However, 60% reoffended, although less seriously.

Judge Becroft says the military activity camps are good in terms of team building, providing good role models and life skills.

But he says it's absurd to think the camps on their own will reduce re-offending.

Judge Becroft says there needs be another step that looks at the deep underlying problems for serious offenders, such as drug dependency, conduct disorder and family violence.

However, he says he's pleased the Government has acknowledged that it should address these issues, and the need for more long-term support in the community.

Not a miracle cure

The Sensible Sentencing Trust says there is value in young offenders attending military style camps but it is in no way a miracle cure.

Spokesperson Garth McVicar says the results aren't good enough but the camps are something the Government should push on with.

He says when a young offender goes to the military camps, it is probably the first time they experience boundaries.

But Mr McVicar says re-offending indicates longer monitoring periods are needed when offenders are released.

A barrister who deals with young offenders says the reoffending rates show the government has taken the wrong approach.

South Auckland lawyer Catriona MacLennan says most 17-year-olds she sees in the cells can barely read and write, and a long- term approach of building up skills, self-esteem and employment is needed.