A bill that would see some of the worst young offenders sentenced to military style 'boot camps' has been criticised at a legal forum.
New Zealand's top judges, law academics and officials are attending the Criminal Justice Forum in Wellington to look at causes of offending.
The Children, Young Persons and their Families Amendment Bill passed its first reading last week.
It includes the proposal of a military-style camp programme to target New Zealand's 40 most serious young offenders.
But the boot camps were criticised by some at the forum, including Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft.
Judge Becroft says they are a comprehensive failure in the Western world, with spectacularly high re-offending rates.
The judge also told the forum there is a second and third generational underclass living in New Zealand.
Judge Becroft says most serious youth offenders who go on to be serious adult offenders, come from high risk, challenged and disadvantaged families.
Judge Becroft says these people - mostly young men - often come from transient families, are born to young mothers, have left school at an early age, are addicted to drugs or alcohol and have had a significant involvement with Child, Youth and Family.