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Arch-bishop on our national shame

Written By: - Date published: 11:55 am, March 11th, 2010 - 30 comments
Categories: prisons - Tags:

When a guy who was imprisoned and tortured by Idi Amin calls the conditions in which prisoners are kept in New Zealand “a source of shame and disgrace” you know we have problems.

Unfortunately, it has become acceptable to view prisoners as less than human in this modern political environment, where the main parties compete to be seen to ‘bash the crims’ the hardest and precious little attention is paid to tackling the causes of crime.

It’s a short-sighted, mindless, and ultimately self-destructive attitude that de-humanises both the imprisoned and the rest of us, and does nothing to reduce crime.

30 comments on “Arch-bishop on our national shame”

  1. rant rant rant. It’s not ALL OF NEW ZEALAND, it’s one prison. Do you have to spin every single thing you write?

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      Ah well it’s all alright then, it’s only New Plymouth, which as everyone knows, isn’t a part of New Zealand. Or something.

      Anyway, move along.

    • vidiot 1.2

      ‘cramped cells’ how dare they, it’s not Maplins !

      If they don’t want to be locked up in 150 year old cells, don’t do the crime – simple stuff.

      I guess the Bishop wants them all to have a PS4, 60″ plasma and leather arm chairs.

    • Rex Widerstrom 1.3

      Right, infused. So I’m sure that the senior, experienced Australian copper who came to Rimutaka Prison to collect me and accompany me to Australia was pretending when he was visibly shocked at the condition both of me and my surroundings, apologised for having left me there so long before coming to get me, and said “I don’t get to say this too many times… but you’re going to like prison in Australia”.

      NZ’s prisons are overwhelmingly a dangerous (to staff as well as prisoners) disgrace.

      It’s not about 60 inch plasmas, vidiot. When I was in Rimutaka every time it rained water would pour through the ceiling, down the wall and across the floor. As a result people were falling in their cells and injuring themselves and prison staff were having to accompany them to hospital, where the taxpayer had to pay for what would otherwise have been unnecessary plaster casts (and staff overtime) or, in some cases, operations. Or is medical treatment also a “luxury” in your view?

  2. I’m not saying this problem is irrelevant, but Marty spins everything, to the point where I’ve stopped reading his posts. This is the problem with Labour in general. Spin shit to make it much worse than it is, people stop listening (climate change anyone?).

    If he hadn’t added that bit in, the article would be a lot better and have more credibility.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.1

      What bit’s got you all upset?

      Most of the language comes straight from the linked article.

      How is this spun to make it worse than it is? These conditions exist in NZ prisons.

    • Daveo 2.2

      And, of course, infused is a regular on Kiwiblog, where David Farrar would never spin anything or deliberately smear his opponents. Because that’s not what he’s spent his whole career doing.

      No, it’s Marty that’s spinning things eh Infused?

      • Captain Rehab 2.2.1

        Sush. Infused is giving us good advice on how to reach the all-important small minded right-wing bigot demographic pay attention to uncle dipshit now kiddies.

      • infused 2.2.2

        I visit the standard more than I visit kiwiblog. Not that it matters.

  3. randal 3

    the worst thing about new zealand prisons are the staff who think they know everything there is to know about human nature and what they dont know isnt worth knowing.
    this place is full of idiotes with no system and working to instrumental theories.
    i.e. if it doesnt work the theory is no good so chuck it out but I knew what the problem was anyway cause if anyone can a kiwi can or some other such balderdash.
    dig?

  4. SHG 4

    The article specifically refers to conditions “at New Plymouth prison”, not (as Marty so hysterically put it) the “conditions in which prisoners are kept in New Zealand”.

    Then again, Marty’s comment is literally true, in the sense that prisoners at New Plymouth prison are also in New Zealand.

    Of course they’re also in the Southern Hemisphere.

    You know what else is in the Southern Hemisphere? Zimbabwe.

    WE’RE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS HERE, PEOPLE.

    • lprent 4.1

      Read the linked article. The Department of Corrections says that the conditions are similar to elsewhere. They deny the conditions at New Plymouth, but I guess if they are wrong about that (and it seems likely because bishops aren’t known for lying), then it must be a NZ wide issue.

      The article also had the Department of Corrections identifying two other prisons with the same physical conditions.

      Why don’t you read the frigging article rather than being a dickhead standing on your high horse…..

  5. Pascal's bookie 5

    ffs.

    The people being ‘hysterical’ are you and infused.

    As you say, those prisoners are in NZ. That is how we are treating them.

  6. PeteG 6

    How is this spun to make it worse than it is?

    Article: “Physical conditions in the older part of the prison attracted special concern, with the bishops saying cramped cells built 150 years ago were “a source of shame and disgrace for us all”. ”

    Marty: “Arch-bishop on our national shame“,
    “the conditions in which prisoners are kept in New Zealand”

    So some cramped cells in some prisons becomes nationalised and dramatised. To me the headline and first paragraph are exaggerated and over dramatised. My immediate reaction was to leave then topic as another beat up over bugger all.

    Which is a shame, but I persevered and went back to read the whole thing a couple of times to try and find the real point of it and found that I generally agreed with the rest of the post.

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1

      I’m not one to go around reflexively agreeing with bishops, but “us all’ equals NZ.

      And he’s right.

      Sucessive governments have let our prison system stagnate. We lock people up in these conditions, and it doesn’t matter if it’s only one prisoner we do it to. If it’s wrong to treat one prisoner the way that prisoner is treated, it’s a national shame.

      If you are happy with the way they are being treted, make that argument, but otherwise, I still can’t see what your point is.

      • PeteG 6.1.1

        How bad is it? Does anyone here know? Are they cramped in their cells? Cramped in their dining space. Cramped in their exercise space? Cramped for style? Is it just the worst of the worst in the worst cramped spaces? Not many people would worry if one prisoner only had room for one leg.

        It seems a bit pointless arguing about some unknown level of crampedness.

        • Pascal's bookie 6.1.1.1

          I’m not saying it’s a political winner to kick up a fuss about this stuff. I know it isn’t. I don’t give shit that it’s not a political winner, except as far as that’s part of the disgrace.

          As the post says:

          Unfortunately, it has become acceptable to view prisoners as less than human in this modern political environment, where the main parties compete to be seen to ‘bash the
          crim’s the hardest…

          As can be seen in this thread, there’s this idea that prisoners are sub human. That’s disgusting.

          Another point is that some of these prisoners are on remand. Due to bullshit, remand conditions are often worse than those for convicted felons, and prisoners can spend quite some time in there. It’s just not good enough in my view.

          Call me a bleeding heart liberal painty waist if you want, I’ve got some epithets of my own for people that don’t believe human rights apply to people the state chooses shouldn’t have them.

        • Galeandra 6.1.1.2

          How about ‘they also say a 22-hour-a-day lockdown instituted in the prison is “disturbing” ‘? Read link.
          It seems a bit pointless arguing about some unknown level of crampedness (sic-k).

  7. Steve 7

    A lot of people have nothing to worry about. They do not commit crimes, so therefore will not be in prison, any prison.
    Good deterent I say. Don’t be an arsehole and you won’t get punished.

    • Bright Red 7.1

      except deterrence doesn’t work. And treating people like animals makes them act like animals.

      • vidiot 7.1.1

        Put them down then, am sure D Garrett would think that $10K should suffice.

        • Marty G 7.1.1.1

          yeah. let’s execute petty thieves and the like.

          that’s the way of the future, a return to barbarianism.

          Have you heard of the bloody code, vidiot? The English made more and more crimes punishable by execution – 222 at the peak in 1815. Did it prevent crime? Hell no. And, as always, the point wasn’t really to prevent crime. It was class war. Prisoners were usually offered transportation to the colonies to serve as slave labour instead of execution. The rise in crimes punishable by execution reflect the ruling class’s desire to get the poor out of england and working as their slaves in the colonies.

  8. Steve 8

    They are animals

    [lprent: So are you, unless you wish to confess to being made of a silicate based rock formation? ]

    • mcflock 8.1

      at least they ain’t trolls

    • Rex Widerstrom 8.2

      I was in prison, Steve. I – along with a lot of other people – were innocent at the time because we hadn’t been tried. It’s a term known as “remand prisoners”. You may have heard of it.

      Then a percentage of those either have the charges dropped because they were bullshit to begin with (as happened to me) or are found not guilty. And thus remain innocent. I don’t have figured for New Zealand but at the remand prison in WA around half the people who go in one end come out the other with no sentence to serve (charges dropped, found not guilty, or their offending so minor as to warrant only “time served”).

      Then there’s a large number of people in prison who, while guilty of something, haven’t physically harmed another person, and most wouldn’t dream of doing so: fraudsters, Car thieves, burglars and the like. Undoubtedly deserving of punishment, yes. But in a filthy, cramped and dangerous environment, confined with murderers, gang members, rapists…?

      Or is that emphatic “They” in your cogent analysis a reference to some subset of those of us who’ve seen the inside of a prison?

      • Brett Dale 8.2.1

        Rex: you said

        “Then there’s a large number of people in prison who, while guilty of something, haven’t physically harmed another person, and most wouldn’t dream of doing so: fraudsters, Car thieves, burglars and the like. ”

        They may of not done physical damage, but they sure do emotional damage. Someone breaking into your home is frighting. Yes I think they should go to prison, but a mininum serucity one, not with rapists and murders.

        Anyone who is on remand and then get charges dropped, or anyone who is found innocent after serving time should be compensated.

        • Rex Widerstrom 8.2.1.1

          We’re in agreement on both points then Brett. Non-violent offenders do usually end up in low security prisons, but not while on remand because officially they haven’t been classified. Therefore they are assumed to be maximum security and held amongst murderers and thugs. Considering you can easily do half your eventual sentence on remand (specially if you’re pleading not guilty, even if it’s to one of a raft of charges) it’s ridiculous.

          In my view there should be “tiers” within a prison… not going up, as in US TV shows, but outwards… most dangerous in the centre, with maximum security, going outwards to a minimum security section.

          A new prisoner – remand or sentenced – is immediately classified and placed in the appropriate tier. Simple.

          Sadly the politicians won’t change it, nor will they make compensation an automatic right when clearly it should be.

          I really wish there were a “Truly Sensible Sentencing Trust” which neither preached inhumane retribution nor wet-bus-ticket non-sentences but promoted the kind of common sense I hear from many commenters here and elsewhere.

        • Herodotus 8.2.1.2

          No one is found innocient, they are found not guilty there is a difference.
          And Brett you try and convey to a retired person who has lost their investment in a 2nd tier finance coy that there is not a physical damage element to their losss. I have seen the effects of such loss such has elderly sufferring a heart attack, lack of confidence and the worry that enters their lives. These are not young people that can readily bounce back. Of all people those who commit MAJOR white collar crime should in my oponion incur a prison time, what is a few $ fine going to do to them?

          • Rex Widerstrom 8.2.1.2.1

            First off, I assume you’re talking about illegal action leading to a loss, Herodotus? Because if you invest and lose – even if it’s through well-meant incompetence – then that’s the flipside of investing and winning.

            I find the advice “never gamble more than you can afford to lose” to be equally valid whether looking at the roulette wheel or a prospectus.

            So, assuming there’s some criminality behind the losses suffered by your hypothetical elderly couple, which outcome is best for them:

            1. They get nothing, the perpetrator gets to sit in a jail cell doing nothing, and our taxes pay for his or her upkeep.

            2. The perpetrator gets a sentence which involves some form of reparation. That might be transferring some or all of his or her assets to the victims. It might mean working and paying a significant portion of their salary to the victims; or if they too are broke then it might come down to being made to mow their lawns, repaint their home, and undertake similar tasks which the victims would now struggle to afford. Still better than nothing. Maybe it also involves repaying the broader community in similar ways, so that overall the victims and the state are recompensed for their losses and costs respectively.

  9. StroppyWench 9

    Actually, yes I have been in New Plymouth prison – albeit 25 years ago, and it was dim, dark and very cramped then.

    Archbishop John Sentamu is an incredibly down-to-earth person, and if he says it’s a disgraceful place, it probably is.

    No, it shouldn’t be luxurious, but it also shouldn’t leave its inhabitants in a worse state than when they arrived.

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