Sensible Sentencing Asked to Get its Facts Right

Saturday 15 March 2008, 1:45AM
By Rethinking Crime and Punishment

"Garth McVicar's claim that the reoffending rate in Maricopa County, Arizona is around 16% is wrong – and he knows it", says Kim Workman, Project Leader of the Rethinking Crime and Punishment Project The Sensible Sentencing Trust are deliberately misleading New Zealanders, in an attempt to generate a climate of fear, and support for extreme retribution.

Mr Workman was commenting on a report in the Matamata Chronicle, (11 March 2008), of a public meeting, held by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, in which Garth McVicar claimed that the chain gangs and tent cities in Arizona had reduced reoffending.

"Garth's earlier reported statements vary widely. In Hawkes Bay Today, (13 August 2007) he stated that "the reoffending rate for ex-prisoners is "believed to be 32%". A week later on Campbell Live, TV3, (20 August) he said, "He (Arpaio) doesn't know what the recidivism rate is and doesn't care. He's keeping crims off the street – that's what its all about! "

"What is the truth? A 1998 Arizona State University study tracked 4,800 released Maricopa County inmates and showed no evidence that harsh treatment reduced recidivism. Arpaio discounted this study as false and continues to claim that his jail program has reduced crime in the valley. No one actually knows with any certainty what the recidivism rate is – including Garth McVicar."

"The other claim made by Garth McVicar was that "Sherriff Arpaio's aim is to lower the number of prisoners in the system (Hawkes Bay Today – 13 August). Well he hasn't succeeded. Maricopa County has the third largest county jail population in the United States, and it increases every year. The County Jail statistics for the last four years were:

• 2004 - 8,657
• 2005 - 9,054
• 2006 - 9,733
• 2007 - 10249

Arizona has an imprisonment rate of 808 prisoners per 100,000 population – higher than the national average, and more than four times higher than New Zealand's 195 per 100,000.

High imprisonment rates might be acceptable if they succeeded in reducing the crime rate. That hasn't happened either. Arizona has the 8th highest homicide rate in the US. The rate is 7.5 per 100,000 compared to 2.4 per 100,000 in New Zealand.
Arizona's robbery rate is 147.7 per 100,000 compared to 67.6 per 100,000 in New Zealand. The Arizona crime rate is extremely high.

Why would New Zealand want to adopt a system that fails to deter offenders, increases the number of people in our prisons, and contributes to a horrendously high crime rate.

Garth McVicar has called his presentation "The Silent Majority Slowly Awakens". Yes they are – to a massive con job.