First strike of the 3 strikes - the worst of the worst?
First strike for new crime law
An Upper Hutt man has been served with New Zealand's first warning under the controversial "three strikes" law after being convicted of groping a woman. Dwyane Christopher Mercer, 32, was convicted in Upper Hutt District Court last week after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting his friend's partner. Indecent assault is one of 40 serious violent offences that attract "strikes" upon conviction. The law came into force on June 1.
So we get our first look at the 3 strikes in action, now remember our friendly baying mob from the Sensible Sentencing Trust and the National Party told us this law was for the worst of the worst, that we were going to remove parole (the only mechanism we have to moderate behaviour inside prison) for the worst of the worst.
Critics (and I put myself in that group) have argued this won't be used on the worst of the worst and a whole bunch of people will get caught by this legal drift net, throwing even more NZers into our underfunded, corrupt and violent prison nation to feed the private prison industry more revenue. This will see more damaged individuals emerging from the prison system without any skills to moderate their own behaviour (because Parole has been eliminated) which will cause even more crime because these individuals with no skills to moderate their behaviour will explode once released only to be thrown (to the glee of the private prison industry) straight back into prison.
So this is our first strike (remember this law is for the worst of the worst) so what happened here? Dwyane Christopher Mercer got drunk, stayed at a woman's house, entered her room, tried it on, groped the woman over her clothes, she screamed and told him to leave, he leaves.
Defence lawyer Phyllis Strachan said: "The touching was over clothing and I think that is important.
Now this sexual assault was pretty awful for the woman involved (it is her home, she should never have to feel fear in her own space) and Dwyane Christopher Mercer obviously let himself down horribly as an individual with his drunken pursuit of someone who clearly wanted nothing more than to sleep.
As awful as that situation was though, how on earth could his groping of a woman through their clothes EVER be considered 'the worst of the worst'? In the pantheon of awful acts human beings can commit on one another, this act deeply underwhelms. This law will NOT be used on the worst of the worst as we have been conned into thinking, Dwyane Christopher Mercer's actions while illegal and deplorable, clearly are NOT the worst of the worst. This bullshit 3 strikes and you're screwed will produce a prison nation starved of funds for rehabilitation. The toxic venom of this weeping wound will then slowly drip back into society, but the thing that really will annoy me is having to watch the puzzled look on Garth McVicars face 5 years from now proclaiming this wasn't what he wanted as increasingly violent prisoners start getting released from a no parole prison environment which has simply warped and damaged them further.
We have a media who leads if it bleeds (in March 2006, crime was 22% of the monthly One Network News and was in the headlines 29%, but by March 2010, crime was only 14% of the monthly One Network News yet was in the headlines 35% of the time) so the viewer is bombarded with news designed to push their buttons for ratings gain, but the knock on impact is that residual hatred that is created by the media's myopic focus on ratings driven crime leaks into the political sphere where it gets twisted to promote kneejerk 'get tough on crime' crap which push for punitive policy which only produces counter productive outcomes (this fear of crime that is over promoted by the ratings hungry media will of course benefit the new Police Political Party running in Council elections THIS YEAR that National rammed through under urgency last week).
Look at the smoking ban in prison, it's not being done for prisoner health, it's being done because the over crowding demands double bunking and the Government would face a myriad of second hand smoke claims from former prisoners. Angry nicotine addicted prisoners forced to go cold turkey so that they can be locked up with other nicotine addicted prisoners who are also going through withdrawal? I can’t see how this double bunking policy won’t bring anything other than sunshine and rainbows.
Well done NZ! Our ability to implement counter productive policy to feed our vengeance never ceases to amaze me.
Reflections in the Hand Mirror
I think the Hand Mirror is one of the top 10 blogs in the NZ Blogosphere. Their well reasoned, well argued critiques on a myriad of social justice issues often have me hurting my neck because I am nodding my head in agreement so often. I have known Julie almost 2 decades from Uni and have an immense amount of respect for her intellect and her personal ethics, so to be called on something I've blogged about by her demands a moment of considered reflection.
At no point was I suggesting Mercer should not be punished, my point was that his offending, his indecent assault, was not the 'worst of the worst' as sold by the supporters of this 3 strikes bill and the assertion by Julie that I was in some way attempting to defend sexual assault seems well off balance. I respect Julie immensely but on this issue we simply won't agree.