Sometimes politicians have daft ideas. The National Party is proposing to round up New Zealand’s worst young criminals and train them to think and act like soldiers.
The overwhelming weight of research into military-styled corrections programmes shows they don’t reduce reoffending rates. So, the end result of the proposed scheme will probably be fighting-fit offenders with a set of new skills they can use to further their lives of crime.
Prime Minister Bill English says the scheme would target about 150 young people who have shown no willingness or ability to change their criminal behaviour – ‘‘the toughest kids with the worst records’’. Of those, 50 a year would spend 12 months at a special facility at Waiouru Military Camp. These are children aged between 14 and 17 who have committed very serious offences, including rape and murder.
Seeing young criminals in uniform will appeal to some National (and NZ First) voters who remember compulsory military training. It’s the sort of policy we can expect to surface a few weeks out from an election.
Compulsory military service as a punishment, to compensate for failures in the youth justice system, has never worked, and it never will.