Burglar shows ex-cons ‘set up to fail’
A lack of support for released prisoners is leaving too many feeling like they have little option but to reoffend to survive, a lawyer says.
Recidivist criminal Daniel Johnson is back in custody awaiting what could be his 76th prison sentence - many of which he has served concurrently - after admitting he was caught by police hiding under a bed at a house in Whitby that he was trying to burgle.
In an affidavit prepared ahead of his appearance in Porirua District Court on August 8, Johnson said he did the crime a few days after finishing a two-year sentence in Auckland Prison because he had no support, place to stay, or idea of what else to do.
The Government previously set a goal of curbing reoffending by 25 per cent between 2011 and 2017, but has fallen well short at 4.3 per cent.
‘‘After I was released I slept under a bridge in Auckland,’’ Johnson wrote.
With the standard $350 Steps to Freedom money given to prisoners on their way out, he travelled to Wellington to stay with his mother, but she had gone to a tangi elsewhere.
Johnson had no identification or bank account, and could not get an address without them.
‘‘I ended up sitting in the bush. I don’t like it in jail and I don’t like it out there either.
‘‘I was lost and I didn’t know what to do.’’
A statement of facts read to the court stated he broke into a house in Whitby through a sliding window one morning in August. He rummaged through drawers in the main bedroom, grabbing stuff that the criminal charge claimed was worth more than $5000. It was later recovered.
‘‘I feel sorry for the people who owned the house,’’ Johnson said.
‘‘I was going to use money to get a place. I had to do something so went back to what I know.
His lengthy criminal record starts with the theft of property when he was about 17 in 1999.
‘‘I am keen to do a course and learn a trade but to do that I need somewhere to stay. It is hard to go on a course if you are sleeping under bridge.’’
His lawyer, Seth Fraser, said former prisoners such as Johnson were being ‘‘set up to fail’’ because of a lack of Government support helping recently released prisoners reintegrate. He said they should at least have some form of ID when they are released.
Judge James Johnston convicted Johnson of the latest burglary charge, remanded him in custody, and ordered him to reappear in November for sentencing.
A Corrections Department spokesperson said that among other initiatives, short-serving prisoners get a reintegration programme focussing on the basic things needed by Johnson.
‘‘While Corrections staff work hard with the offender and other government agencies to help with their transition back into the community, offenders have a responsibility to take ownership for their own situation.’’