Grief is a powerful and sometimes destructive force.

It can creep up on you when least expected and turn you inside out.

Amy Chiles is still feeling grief over the brutal murder of her sister Vicky Telfer 11 years ago, and one can understand the feelings behind the broadside she fired at former Whanganui MP Chester Borrows this week.

Borrows has been appointed to lead the Government's advisory group on reform of the justice sector and has spoken strongly on the need for an approach based on rehabilitation and reconciliation.

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Chiles' grief has seen her join the Sensible Sentencing Trust whose hardline agenda of longer prison sentences was always going to be at odds with Borrows' stance.

She took particular aim at the former MP's comments about the value of restorative justice meetings. Okay, restorative justice does not work for everyone and, in many cases, may be inappropriate.

But it has also proved successful - both for victims of crime and the perpetrators. The evidence is there, but that is something Chiles and Sensible Sentencing are reluctant to acknowledge.

Restorative justice flies in the face of the trust's credo of punishment. But the value of punishment is in some doubt - it is almost an outdated term, with "deterrent" and "consequences" making more sense these days.

Tougher "punishment" tends to produce hardened people who, when finally out of prison, are more likely to offend again. That is only creating more victims.

While emotion may shape the views of Chiles and others, governments have to take a cold, hard look at what produces the best results for society as a whole.

Borrows, a former police officer and a minister for courts and associate justice minister, knows the system inside out.

It's about what works - and what works is finding alternatives to prison that show offenders another way; and those who come out of prison being in a position to turn a corner and find an alternative to crime.

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Fewer criminals means fewer victims.