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A National disgrace

Written By: - Date published: 9:25 am, July 15th, 2009 - 13 comments
Categories: crime, law and "order" - Tags: , ,

Judith “Crusher” Collins, postergirl for uncompassionate conservatives, proudly announces in her latest press release: “Prison numbers set to be highest ever”.

Odd thing to be proud of when what it really shows is a justice system that’s failing. Our rate of incarceration – the second highest in the western developed world – should be a national disgrace, particularly in the context of an overall crime rate that’s falling. Of course Labour’s hands aren’t entirely clean on this either, the prison muster having risen throughout their time in office as well.

On the up-side, I suppose if double-bunking and shoving prisoners in containers is the best Judith Collins has got, the way is presumably open for some genuinely progressive policy responses from the left…

13 comments on “A National disgrace”

  1. Pat 1

    “…the way is presumably open for some genuinely progressive policy responses from the left ”

    Like letting them out?

    • The Voice of Reason 1.1

      Yes, Pat. Letting them out actually is the aim of any rehabilative prison service.

      The point is to get prisoners to see the error of their ways, address their wrong doing, find better ways of behaving and then, after serving the sentence, integrating back into society. Even better is treating the causes of crime, which are varied: illness, relative poverty, societal disassociation etc.

      Or we can just be mindlessly reactive, like the Minister and yourself appear to be.

      • Pat 1.1.1

        I understand now. They’re not really criminals, they just have societal disassociation disorders.

        • The Voice of Reason

          No Pat, they are criminals. Gosh, you’re slow on it this morning!

          Most western societies balance the need to deal with the crimes individuals commit with an understanding of the reasons why crimes in general happen. The second part attempts to prevent crime by addressing the root causes (poverty etc.) and the first part addresses each crime individually. It can’t be that hard to grasp, surely?

          Would this help? More inequality in society = more crime. Which side are you on, Pat? Those who want to work to end crime or those who just want to vent at the minority of criminals who get caught, convicted and jailed?

          • Pascal's bookie

            No no no, VoR, a thousand times no.

            Crime is innate, like blue eyes or tongue rolling. ‘Criminal’ describes what they are, not what they did.

            The justice system’s task is to identify, catch and contain the criminals. Obviously this can be tricky, as criminals are a naturally devious bunch and take care to hide their true nature. Some of them can go for decades without revealing themselves.

            Thus, one task of the government is to ‘out’ these closet criminals by removing the foliage in which they hide. It’s easy not to commit crimes when everything is good with the world. Crank up the pressure a bit though, and the little bastards can’t help but reveal themselves.

            Social policy should be used like Agent Orange in the War on Crime.

            It’s for their own good really. In the long run.

        • Ron

          Actually, Pat, it is actually almost as easy.

          I have twice now been involved in programmes to stop young men going to prison. Very simple, one on one support to move them away from a life of crime and toward employment, education and a happier life. Each of these porojects was unbelievably successful (75% success rate), cost the price of a couple of youth workers and was discontinued when funding was discontinued.
          I’ve talked to mayors, politicians, business people and the current Minister of SD about these programmes and had nods, blank stares and no positive response.
          “genuinely progressive policy responses ” are actually a piece of piss. The skills are in the community now and the models available.

  2. Ianmac 2

    I know that some prisoners are nasty aggressive people. A huge proportion are not. Many of those made stupid choices but so does everyone including the rich and famous. Perhaps the difference is that the rich can utilise resources to escape conviction. So if you are going to increase the muster put all who make mistakes in jail. Including ………………..

  3. lyndon 3

    Collins actually agreed it was a “national disgrace” in Parliament the other day.

    It’s all a bit confusing.

  4. Naturally, if you don’t read the whole press release, you’ll miss the context.

    The increase in the number of prisoners was expected. However, the previous Government didn’t have concrete plans to deal with this.

    Again, it’s a silly target for the left to claim this is somehow a result of “uncompassionate” National policies when exactly the same thing would have happened under Labour.

    ayb – I accept you’ve made that distinction but the comments don’t follow the same line.

    Ha ha captcha – smaller 🙂

  5. George D 5

    Again, it’s a silly target for the left to claim this is somehow a result of “uncompassionate’ National policies when exactly the same thing would have happened under Labour.

    You’re absolutely right there. Labour bears full responsibility for NZ having the highest imprisonment rates of almost anywhere.

  6. StephenR 6

    Naturally, if you don’t read the whole press release, you’ll miss the context.


    ‘Go the Dutch’ though: http://www.nrc.nl/international/article2246821.ece/Netherlands_to_close_prisons_for_lack_of_criminals

  7. Rex Widerstrom 7

    Nor is the trend confined to NZ. It’s happening in most Australian states too.

    But despite the media wailing “the rising tide of crime is about to engulf us all!! Run!! Run, we say…!!” every evening, the causes are not an increase in levels of criminality across the population but deliberate policy choices made by politicians.

    For example, the WA Attorney General has, in the past few months alone:

    – Forced out the Director of Public Prosecutions into a patently fake 12 month “special counsel” role so he can appoint a hard-liner to the position before the DPP’s current term has even ended. It’s not that the incumbent is soft on criminals, it’s just around half the cases he puts through the courts, destroying the lives of the accused in the process, result in withdrawal of the charges or a not guilty verdict. Unable to pressure the judiciary any more than he does already, the AG hopes that somehow an even harder-line prosecutor will be successful in imprisoning more of those accused.

    – Replaced the Chair of the Prisoner Review Board (Parole Board) with a known hard-liner. As a result parole approvals, even of those imprisoned for non-violent ofences, have plummeted.

    – Removed various rehabilitative options available to prisoners including harsh and ridiculous restrictions on what they’re allowed to study and the removal of (privately owned, by the prisoners themselves) computers from prisons to further hamper education.

    As a_y_b rightly and fairly acknowledges, both Labour and National are hell-bent on following the same “tough on crime” path in the chase for uncommitted votes.

    So here’s a challenge for the left (as I know it’s one the right would never take up). Your support is pretty much taken for granted. So pick a couple of issues affecting the most vulnerable in our society – I’d suggest beneficiaries and prisoners – draw a line in the sand and make it quite clear the parties on the left will lose your support if they don’t fix things.

    Yes it’s both radical and dangerous, in that a mass abstention might see a continuation of National. But really, aside from branding, there’s not a hell of a lot of difference.

    So there’s the challenge. Put aside the tribalism that dictates “anything is better than National” and try to do something for the people who, once upon a time, could have relied on parties of the left for help.

    Edit: I was writing my comment as StephenR was writing his. Naturally I was excited to see that headline, but what do I find when I read it? This linked story. The headline says it all: “With prisons empty, lawmakers want more convicts in jail”. QED.

  8. Noko 8

    A great, great, way to lower this would be in addressing victimless crimes. Labour did this somewhat in 2002 with the legalisation of prostitution.

    I’ve got one word, to where we should keep going with this – cannabis.

    Behind the United States, we’ve got the 2nd highest amount of cannabis convictions per head of population, is that a country we really want to emulate?

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