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Promises to get tough on youth crime might win votes – but the evidence shows it hasn’t worked for NZ

03 October 2023

The promise to “get tough on youth crime” is a New Zealand election perennial. This year, parties on both the left and right have pledged to crack down on young offenders – despite a lot of evidence that such approaches do not work in the long term.


New Zealand’s rate of youth offending has been decreasing for some time. But there is a disproportionately high number of youth justice beds here relative to other comparable countries. The United Nations has already identified the human rights concerns with New Zealand’s low age of criminal responsibility and the disproportionate numbers of rangatahi Māori in the criminal justice system.

Co-authors UC lecturer in Political Science and International Relations, Dr Lin Mussell and UC lecturer for Aotahi School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, Jessica Niurangi Maclean share insights on what is working and why it is important to trust the evidence on The Conversation.



Disclosure statement

Jessica Niurangi Maclean provides services to Ara Poutama/Department of Corrections, including writing s27 cultural reports. She receives funding from Ara Poutama to develop and deliver Mana Wahine programmes at Christchurch Women's Prison.

Linda Mussell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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