A walking, talking, living advertisement

… for why civilised societies which hope to remain civilised don’t lock violent children up with hardened criminals in the hope that they’ll magically reform into model citizens.

I’m talking about Bailey Junior Kurariki, whose latest offences, according to criminologist John Pratt, are a sign he has become institutionalised. Of course, his victim’s mother doesn’t think so, and neither do the usual reactionaries. The other lot aren’t all that much better. But perhaps that’s to be expected: when the only tool your populist justice positioning allows you to wield is a hammer, even a screwed-up 12 year-old kid looks like a nail to be smacked down as hard as possible.


12 thoughts on “A walking, talking, living advertisement

  1. they don’t expect them to be reformed; they want them to be punished.

  2. Yes. The hang’em/flog’em brigade implement corrections policy which ensures reoffending, and then use examples like this one as a justification to throw away the key.

    But the reform imperative remains, at least nominally; and the responsibility for failing to reform isn’t on the system which prevents it, but on the offender. It is electorally untenable to simply give up on offenders, which is what they apparently want to do.


  3. The news media got their man.

    Since Kurariki was released we’ve been told how unreformed and unrepentent he is. Journalists have harassed and followed him, delighting in his every failure. The mother of his victim has been a more than willing participant.

    And now this. Talk about creating the news. How much public attention will the others still in prison for the killing of Michael Choy receive when they’re eventually released? My guess is next to none.

    We set Kurariki up to fail, and he’s done exactly what was required of him.

  4. Kurariki should have been executed after his first murder.
    He is only a matter of time.
    I would take him out for the state but apparently its against the law.

  5. Yes. The hang’em/flog’em brigade implement corrections policy which ensures reoffending, and then use examples like this one as a justification to throw away the key.

    what we need to do is hang’em/flog’em, our problems stem from the fact that we don’t.

    Andrew W

  6. Andrew, I love this line of argument. I get it a lot. It’s the same one which holds that all our race relations problems would be solved if we just drove all the natives into the sea. Do you hold that position as well? If not, why not?


  7. hanging and flogging will accomplish nothing but the (further) brutalisation of offenders as long as the socio-economic causes of crime go unaddressed. As far as I can tell the tough-on-crime lobby seems to see no further purpose to the criminal justice system than as an instrument of retribution and punishment.

    It is well-established in the criminological literature that offenders who come out of prison are often ill-equipped to deal with real life again, that prisons themselves are hotbeds of illicit drug-trafficking and other illegal activities, and that they foster the formation of criminal gangs (to which prisoners must belong if they are long to survive the brutally violent prison world).

    Often the only lessons that prisons teach offenders are lessons in violence as a means to solve problems, and often prisoners come out more brutalised, sociopathic, violent and incapable of living normal, healthy lives than when they went in.

    Criminal justice, in America especially, and in the English-speaking world more generally, is a moral failure, and a policy failure, of staggering proportions, and a massive indictment on our societies and political systems. There is nothing humane about prison; nothing to teach offenders how to lead good lives after they leave prison; no-one to show them how to function in the world after they have left a place of institutionalised brutality and violence – I would almost say ‘torture’.

    And criminal justice, and the problem of crime, is so much broader than just the prison system – that prisons need to exist at all should be viewed as a massive indictment on the failure of our society to solve problems like broken homes and poverty that drive the formation of gangs and other forms of criminal behaviour.

  8. It’s the same one …

    How is it supposed to be the same argument?

    I don’t hold that position because I believe that people are individuals and should be held responsible as individuals, I don’t go for collectivism as I’m not a socialist.

  9. I’m just going to ignore the “non-individualism == socialism” canard. Honestly.

    The reason it’s the same is that it’s a simplistic, brutal solution to a complex problem, imposed by a power majority on a power minority, focused entirely on the what and without any consideration given to the why.


  10. The reason it’s the same is that it’s a simplistic, brutal solution to a complex problem, imposed by a power majority on a power minority, focused entirely on the what and without any consideration given to the why.

    So legislation implementing hang’em/flog’em, (if supported by the majority) would be the same as most other legislation passed in democratic nations.

    People who repeatedly harm others when breaking the law are enemies of society.

    My opinion of what would be the optimum criminal justice system comes down to a simple philosophy I once read: “There are two things you can do with an enemy, you can kill him, or you can make him your friend”

    The alternative is that you don’t act to permanently neutralise him as a threat, a stupid and dangerous course of in/action, but one that we practice when dealing with criminals in most Western democracies.

    Why are we where we are with the criminal justice system? I think it’s a result of the democratic process, a process which is the politics of compromise, politicians usually shy away from solutions that are controversial and divisive, and while each of the options in my quote are workable, and probably the best result would be to use a combination of the two, with real determination to rehabilitate and eliminate when that’s not going to succeed (think Burton), neither option is an easy political sell, each appeals to one of the two political extremes, so we settle on the politically acceptable compromise of sending criminals to a boarding school where they are neither made a friend of society or eliminated.

    And the “why”.

    Why does society produce criminals in the first place, and is it possible to have a society that won’t produce criminals?

    I’m a moral subjectivist so I don’t see people who turn to crime as objectively amoral, they’re simply taking the option that at the time to them is the course of action that’s in their best interests. Looking at it this way, why they see crime as an option can be explain quite easily.
    Like other social animals we seek to improve our status amongst our peers, if we believe that improving our status by working outside the social rules rather than within those rules is the best option, we will look to improve our status that way. This, in my view, is why minorities that are discriminated against or that teach their children that being a minority deprives them of opportunities, have such proportionately higher offending rates.

    Many of the instincts driving criminals are the same ones that drive revolutionaries, when Man was evolving he lived in small social groups, being a rebel against the establishment was often how one rose socially, in the huge stable society we have now the same long evolved methods just don’t work, (but they can still make a rebel attractive to potential mates).

    I doubt crime can be eliminated, it can be reduced by making a society more homogenous, and perhaps by reducing disparity, but when you reduce disparity you also reduce incentives, which can make a society poorer though reduced efficiency.

    That’s probably all a little disjointed, time to do sum work.

  11. Andrew, while I don’t agree with it all, that’s pretty coherent and I think we’re a fair bit closer than your initial executive summary implied. Thanks.

    The thing for me is as you say: rehabilitate with determination, in the first place, and then follow up with other measures (which we’ll likely disagree on, but I see the principle). That wasn’t done in the Kurariki case (and virtually never is in our society), and that’s the result of my blaming the system for his failure to reform. We as a society did everything possible to ensure he was unable to reform; because of that, in my view it’s unjust to now resort to the more severe measures, since it’s our failure which has necessitated them.


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