Criminals: Make yourself a better person or stay in prison - Mike Roke

05/04/2017

Whether we like it or not, most people sitting in our prisons today will be out walking our streets again one day simply because they have served their time. In fact, in some cases they have served as little as one third of their time. Is that paying back their debt to society?

What about the victims also? They so often get forgotten when we talk about offenders. While the offender is in a cell the victims are quite often in hell. That small moment in time changes their lives forever. Quite often physically but very much mentally.

I unfortunately have a bit of inside knowledge on how a violent crime can destroy a family. I was only a young boy when a very close family member was taken from us in a house burglary gone wrong. Although my memories of the aftermath are foggy, I can tell you that my whole family was affected and even now 30-odd years later, if it is ever brought up, tears well in the eyes of those directly affected. Offenders need to be made well aware of what their actions have done to their victims and their families. It needs to be in their face every day until they get it.

Too many offenders are being set free back into the community before it is safe for them to be there. The corrections system and in particular rehabilitation of offenders needs a complete overhaul.

We need to make sure that while they are serving their time they are going about improving themselves so they can contribute and be a positive part of the community when they return, whether they like it or not.

There should be no chance of parole for a violent offender. Not only that, but there should be no chance of release at all until Corrections has confidence this person will never re-offend. I'm not saying lock them up and throw away the key. Far from it - I'm saying convicts need suitable incentive to get out. During their time inside they must take part in a full rehabilitation programme, job training and counselling. They need to read victim statements and show genuine remorse for what they have done and understand what their actions have done to another human.

Offenders need to use their time inside to make them a better person, and they need to think about what non-criminal thing they will do to earn a living and how they will contribute positively to their community when they are released.

They don't want to do that? That's fine. They don't have to. But they don't get out until they do. The choice will be theirs. Make yourself a better person inside or never step foot outside again.

I genuinely believe in redemption and second chances. No one is born a criminal - they are made into one. They were a good person once, so they can be again.

We have to do something. The recidivism rates in this country are far too high, so let's put it back to the criminals. Make yourself a better person or never get out.

Mike Roke is a producer on Drive with Alison Mau.