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New Zealand Sentencing

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"Yesterday, the Sensible Sentencing Trust joined families of victims outside Auckland's Mt Eden Prison and staged a demonstration for tougher parole laws," reports Greer McDonald for the Dominion Post. (Hat tip: SL&P.) On the same site, another story reports that dueling experts from Britain have been giving the Kiwis contrary advice. Baroness Vivian Stern and Professor Andrew Coyle "say they are astonished at the high rate of imprisonment in New Zealand and that alternatives should be considered." "But David Fraser, a British law and order expert, says the Government needs to change its anti-prison ideology if it wants to avoid criminals running free and committing more crimes." He says, "British sentencing policies since the 1960s have failed to protect the public and are a monumental disaster."

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Of the two sides, I would be more inclined to believe the guy who has been a probation officer for 26 years, plus also worked as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst for the UK National Criminal Intelligence Service for over a decade, as opposed to a Baroness and a Professor whose real life experience at the "coalface" as we call it is somewhat limited.

David Fraser also exposed a common misuse or abuse of imprisonment statistics of which Baroness Vivian Stern and Professor Coyle's is a classic example. Imprisonment rates per 100,000 head of population tell you nothing; the real measure is imprisonment rate compared to the crime rate. Put that way NZ, along with the UK, is well down the league table, with countries such as Spain, Japan, Singapore and the US leading the way

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