Boot-camp critics miss point, says Bennett

Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett has defended the military-style camps planned by the Government after the Families Commission said they would do little to reduce youth offending and in some cases might increase it.

The Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders Amendment Bill will give the Youth Court new sentencing orders ranging from tight supervision to three-month stays in camps.

If passed, it would enable the court to issue parenting orders and its jurisdiction would be extended to include 12- to 13-year-olds who committed serious crimes.

Military-style camps, or boot camps, have been evaluated and have regularly been shown to "be ineffective at reducing crime", the Families Commission's submission to a parliamentary committee said.

"This is because they emphatically do not address the underlying causes of offending, which are rooted in the offenders' home, school and community.

"The offending of young people who have attended some of these camps has increased."

Putting young offenders together and not addressing underlying causes of the offending creates a culture that reinforces criminal values, the commission said.

National MP Chester Borrows said the camps were getting a bad rap. He said people's concept of what the programmes would be was not what was envisioned.

Ms Bennett said the critics of the camps had "missed the point".

"We are not lurching back to the days of packing all bad kids off to boot camps en masse for corrective training.

"That has been tried and failed here and elsewhere."

She said the camps were likely to be small, deal with the most troubled offenders and involve extensive follow-up.

Labour youth justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the camps were a "charade" and a waste of $35 million of taxpayers' money.

"The Families Commission, Unicef and Barnardos were among those voicing opposition [to the camps]. The reality is that it is Paula Bennett who has missed the point."

Ms Ardern said there were plenty of early-intervention programmes that actually worked.

- NZPA

- NZ Herald

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