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The Alliance Party says the National Government's plan to blow $35 million on boot camps is money down the drain for taxpayers, as it will do nothing for at risk youth and may even make things worse for them.
Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says the Government seems to have been watching too much reality TV and is getting its ideas from the TV series "Boot Camp."
Ms Murray says that unfortunately in real life "boot camps" have been found to be a complete waste of time.
She says placing young offenders into a programme where they are bullied and humiliated by powerful authority figures and forced to take part in military style exercises will have an obvious negative result and completely backfire.
"Rather than improving their social skills, it will just show them that if you’re tougher and more powerful than someone else then you can force them do anything you like. And most of them already know that, which is the problem."
"Young offenders are often very good and bullying and humiliating and forcing people to do things against their will. They are often aggressive. For many of them that is why they have come into conflict with the law in the first place."
Ms Murray says the main problem with many young offenders was that they had been brought up in dysfunctional homes where excessive physical discipline, lack of care and support, and economic stress on the family led to bad outcomes.
"The age old National Party strategy is to ignore the social causes of crime and violence, and take the easy way out by cooking up a half-baked recipe for disaster."
"These young people don't need to be 'toughened up.' They are already much too tough, and that’s part of the problem. What they don’t have are basic social skills like the ability to treat people with decency and respect – especially people who may be physically inferior or very unassertive."
Ms Murray says many young peoples offending stems from issues such as undiagnosed or poorly managed ADHD, mental illness, addiction problems, learning difficulties, or simply poverty – they steal because there is no other way they can get what the average teenagers parents buy for them.
"Our society places huge pressure on young people with consumerism and advertising, pushing the irresponsible message that the more you have the better you are, so naturally young people who don't have access to these things have problems."
Ms Murray says rehabilitating young offenders is a difficult and complex task, and not something that can be turned around overnight.
She says that moves to reduce staff in CYF – the one department that could help prevent children from turning into young offenders in the first place – show the Government has no intention of solving the problem but are more interested in cynical manipulation of the public's concerns.
"Add to that tax cuts for the well off but nothing for low income families or families on a benefit, and this will lead to more stress, anger and resentment amongst poorer New Zealanders."