Youth re-offending after attending boot camps

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 12:28 13/12/2012

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While youth offending has declined overall, 10 serious offenders sent to new military-style boot camps committed more than 100 crimes between them within six months of completing the programme.

The Ministry of Social Development today released a report on the Fresh Start reforms, which represented the most significant change to youth justice legislation and practice in 20 years.

The reforms, which were adopted in 2010, aimed to curb youth offending by giving more powers to the Youth Court and initiating new programmes, such as mandatory Military-Style Activity Camps (MACs) for the worst 40 youth offenders per year.

MACs were viewed as "one final opportunity" before youth, aged between 12 and 16, are sent to the adult justice system.

For the 31 people who attended the camps prior to April this year, 61 per cent reoffended within six months, with about 60 per cent offending less seriously and less frequently than they had before they attended the camp.

While 12 did not reoffend after the camp, 19 did and 10 youth built up 126 offences between them in just six months.

Because the MAC camps were new and only related to the 40 most serious young offenders each year, it was difficult to find a direct comparison group, the ministry said in its report.

It was working on a methodology to be able to compare those who had completed the camp with a similar group.

Most youth who offend usually do so for a short period of time or commit only a few offences and then stop, but there was a group of "serious and persistent" child and youth offenders who are responsible for nearly half the crime committed by young people.

Most continued to offend into adulthood and were likely to end up in prison, the report said.

This group's behaviour was difficult to change and the reforms were aimed at facilitating that change. 

Fresh Start reforms added more placements to rehabilitation programmes, for drugs and alcohol, for example.

However, more than two thirds of those who have completed the programmes since the reforms were put in place have reoffended within six months.

While none of their reoffending was drug-specific, 72 per cent reoffended and most committed offences which were of the same nature and frequency prior to when they received treatment.

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