Prison wrong place for addicted driving offenders

Repeat drugged driving offenders should be locked up indefinitely in a caring environment where their addictions can be treated, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, was commenting after Luke Bradley Savigny was sentenced to over five years’ prison for a drugged-fuel crash that killed 32-year-old Christopher Narayan Blair.

Matthew-Wilson says addicted offenders who aren’t treated, frequently reoffend multiple times once they leave prison.

Savigny’s fatal crash, just outside Oamaru on March 21 last year, flung the victim 15 metres from the crash site and almost broke the car in two.  Savigny’s latest crash followed a string of similar offending. Savigny has never held a legal driver’s licence.

Matthew-Wilson has studied dozens of similar cases.

“All prison does is postpone the offender’s next disaster. Within a few weeks or months of leaving prison, these offenders frequently repeat the same pattern and the results are often fatal.”

“I’m not excusing the terrible things these offenders have done. There is clearly a need for these offenders to be locked up until they’ve dealt with their addiction. However, prison is just about the worst place to put a person with a serious addiction problem.”

“Typically, these offenders have had horrific childhoods. Often these offenders’ brains are poorly developed due to a messy and fearful environment. At a time when normal kids were playing with toys and picture books, these offenders were often dodging blows from angry and blotto parents.”

“Coming from a violent household - or multiple households - means the child feels that he or she needs to be constantly on the alert for danger. Therefore the child never learns to trust.  So everyone becomes a potential threat.”

“Such children often learn little or nothing at school. Instead they often copy the lifestyles of their parents. Cannabis, methamphetamine and alcohol seem an ideal way out of the pain of everyday life.”

“To an offender with serious drug or alcohol addiction, prison is much the same as their original family home: unpleasant, violent and constantly threatening.”

“One of the reasons that prison addiction programmes often don’t work is because these programmes are seriously under-resourced. The other reason is because prison is just about the worst possible place for an addicted offender to risk being sober and vulnerable.”

Matthew-Wilson says drugged offenders should be locked up in a safe and nurturing environment and given the choice between staying there forever or dealing with their addiction.

“Let’s be real. There are going to be some offenders who never change. That’s okay; let’s keep them locked up so they can’t kill more innocent people. However, I believe that a large percentage of offenders will eventually turn their lives around if that’s their only hope of being released.”

Matthew-Wilson believes offenders need:

  • A nurturing environment, where they learn basic life skills, including reading
  • Appropriate treatment for mental health conditions
  • Supportive addiction courses
  • A work programme designed to transition them into a job when they are released from custody