Half of boot camp youths continue to offend - report

By Kate Shuttleworth

The first intake of youths in the MAC (Military Activity Camp) attempt an exercise on the confidence course at Burnham Military Camp near Christchurch. Photo / Simon Baker
The first intake of youths in the MAC (Military Activity Camp) attempt an exercise on the confidence course at Burnham Military Camp near Christchurch. Photo / Simon Baker

More than half of the youth offenders who have been through a Government boot camp in an effort to curb their offending have continued to get in trouble with the law, a report shows.

Ten of 19 youths who reoffended after going through the Military-Style Activity Camps (MAC) committed 126 offences between them within six months of leaving the camp.

The camps are part of the Fresh Start Programme which takes 40 of the most serious young offenders from the Youth Court each year.

The Ministry of Social Development released a report today (Thur) into the Fresh Start reforms, showing of the 31 people who attended the camps in the past year, more than half reoffended within six months.

Twelve did not reoffend after the camp.

The report showed youth offending in New Zealand had steadily declined over the past 10 years.

A report found it was difficult to make accurate judgements on the long-term impact of the camps. "We need a large enough group of young people, who have been out of MAC for a minimum of six months before we can monitor how their behaviour has changed over time. Because MAC only takes up to 40 young people per year, we do not yet have enough data to make a statistically robust evaluation of MAC Camps,'' the report found.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment director Kim Workman said the camps were not effective, and the rate of reoffending was likely to rise by up to 85 per cent.

"For serious offenders if you want to change their offending behaviour, the camps are not going to make a difference in isolation.

Assistant Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said there was no magic wand that could be waved to instantly fix the problems with the country's most troubled young people.

"MACs are the last ditch attempt to turn these kids around and stop them heading to adult prison and a life of crime,'' said Mr Borrows.

Prime Minister John Key was unavailable for comment on the camps today.

Figures released last year showed 53 per cent of youth completing the camps had reoffended. Mr Key said last year it was difficult to gauge the success of the programme because it was "early days''.

The eight-week camp involves a 6:20am wake-up call, uniforms, chores, fitness activity, literacy and numeracy classes and, if necessary, alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

The Fresh Start youth justice reforms were announced in 2009, with a supporting legislative change in October 2010. The reforms targeted serious and persistent youth offending through:

- Amending the Youth Court jurisdiction to include serious offending by 12 and 13-year-olds.

- Extending the maximum length of Youth Court orders.

- Introducing Military-Style Activity Camps for the most serious young offenders.

- Increasing the provision of supported bail, including a wider geographical coverage.

- Increased parenting education for parents of young offenders, and for young offenders who are themselves parents.

- Increased mentoring placements for young offenders.

- Increased Alcohol and Other Drug treatment placements for young offenders

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 23 Dec 2014 10:28:40 Processing Time: 485ms