Crime born of violence

Darrin Hollander is no angel, having earned more than 100 convictions for violence and other crimes over three decades.

The 48-year-old from Christchurch is close to finishing his latest stretch — seven years behind bars at Otago Corrections Facility, after shooting his "best mate" during a rage in Southland.

But Hollander says he is also a victim.

A victim of New Zealand’s State care system, which for decades allowed thousands of children like Hollander to be beaten and sexually abused when they should have been safe.

And he is a victim of Dunedin’s Cherry Farm Hospital, where he was sent as a teenager to get clean from drugs, then punished for refusing to take more.

Labelled a trouble-maker, he was strapped down, given a paralysing injection and then electric shock treatment.

It was an experience that drove him to attempt suicide, and one that set him on a path to crime and a life behind bars.

And now he is also a statistic — one of the estimated 40% of inmates locked up in New Zealand’s prisons who come from the state care system.

Hollander agreed to be interviewed by ODT Insight to shed light on the damage done and the cost still being counted by our society.

His own life in care began when his mother died and he fled an abusive father, stealing to survive, before eventually being sent to Hokio and Kohitere Boys’ Home, in Levin.

Darrin Hollander says violence and abuse in state care is partly to blame for a life of crime and...
Darrin Hollander says violence and abuse in state care is partly to blame for a life of crime and punishment. Photo: Craig Baxter.

He faced violence and sexual abuse from older boys and staff, and later began using drugs to "make the pain go away".

"That was the last time the real me was walking this earth. After that, I was just a shell of a person.

"I just became an angry person and hurt people."

Later he passed through Dunedin Boys’ Home at Lookout Point, but was sent to Cherry Farm for a psychological evaluation when his drug use spiralled out of control.

He started "playing up" after refusing to take powerful drugs meant for long-term patients, was labelled a trouble-maker, and punished.

He was told to lie on a bed, then given an injection that paralysed him from the neck down.

"Then all the niceties were gone. They strapped me to a bed, put what was like a mouthguard in my mouth ... I remember them putting two things on me and talking about dialling something up, then ‘bang’.

"It just felt like I’d been kicked in the head by a horse."

It was the first of two punishments that led Hollander to "play the game" to get out, two months later, but it was too late to stop his descent into crime.

He has spent 20 years of his life behind bars, as violence and other offending has seen him in and out of jail.

Life began to change only after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, from his time in State care, which led to weekly counselling sessions in jail.

He has also spoken to the Government’s Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, which wound up in 2015, and received a $20,000 payment from the Ministry of Social Development for his mistreatment in boys’ homes.

But he was yet to accept a second offer from the Ministry of Health, which in June acknowledged his treatment — including the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) — had been wrong.

The Ministry offered him just $4000, which Hollander said was "a kick in the guts".

"I don’t really care about the money. It just feels like they still get the final say. They acknowledge these things ... by throwing you peanuts."

Hollander said he accepted his guilt, and his responsibility, for his crimes, and hoped his latest stint behind bars would be his last.

But the State still needed to share some of the blame, he said.

"My life has been shit, and I’ve lost everything, because of the way I’ve behaved.

"We were young kids and needed help, and we got trashed."

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