Bur­glar shows ex-cons ‘set up to fail’

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - JARED NI­COLL

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.’’

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