Punishment approach to three strikes law won’t reduce crime - criminologist

Criminologist Emmy Rākete (Ngāpuhi) argues that a punishment-based approach won’t reduce crime or create public safety as it doesn’t address the causes of crime.

The university lecturer and spokesperson for People Against Prisons Aotearoa says the causes of crime are unemployment, homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

“There’s no money to pay doctors, there’s no money to build state housing, there’s no money to provide mental health treatment or addiction therapy to any of the people who need it.

“There’s no money for any of the stuff that might actually help somebody but as soon as it’s time to arrest people, to hold them at gunpoint, to pepper spray them, to drag them to court, to put them in a concrete box, suddenly there is infinite money,” she said.

In the Three Strikes announcement Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the law would benefit Māori because they were over-represented as victims. However, Rākete explained that victims and offenders weren’t binary oppositions.

“You see that in the profile of those in prison. Overwhelmingly they are people who have also been the victims of crime.

The argument that this is gonna be great for Māori because Māori are victims, ignores the fact that perpetrators of crime are also overwhelmingly the victims of crime, so there’s no real distinction between these two populations - victims and offenders. If you punish one, you’re going to be punishing the other as well.“

On Luxon and Minister Nicole McKee’s opinions that the adjustments made to the revised legislation would prevent problems that arose from the last law, Rākete said, “Luxon claims their new legislation will somehow be less racist than the old legislation but it’s functionally identical. Three Strikes makes sentences longer, and that’s all it does - because the justice system discriminates against Māori, Three Strikes will make that discrimination worse.”