Instead of competing in some sort of bizarre race to the bottom with the United States for the most number of people incarcerated per head of population, we need to attend to what works to prevent crime.
While the idea of scaring young people out of crime (boot camps, prison visits etc) might have popular appeal, it is a total failure as it has been found to increase the probability of crime. What does work is reducing the stress on low income families and providing them with sufficient material resources to ensure their kids have opportunities to thrive.
Increasing the incomes of low-income low opportunity parents using unconditional cash assistance reduces children’s likelihood of engaging in criminal activity. Yes giving parents more money, and trusting them to identify where the pressure points in their family life are, improves both the economic position of a family and reduces stress, the key pathway between poverty and poor outcomes for children.
A substantial body of research supports unconditional cash assistance in countries similar to New Zealand.
Jess Berentson-Shaw. Morgan Foundation