Nats panic over climbing prison population – I have some advice

Written By: - Date published: 7:22 am, July 15th, 2017 - 70 comments
Categories: class war, crime, housing, national, prisons, useless - Tags: , , , ,

Seems the Nats are starting to panic (Shane Cowlishaw on Newsroom):

Government searches for prison panacea

The Government has been unapologetic for the record high prison population, but that confidence may be beginning to waver. …

Corrections Minister Louise Upston has sought advice about how to curb the surging prison muster, but what those options are remains a secret. It comes as New Zealand’s prison population is forecast to keep rising, with the possibility a new prison facility may not be big enough to cope. In February, the Department of Corrections responded to a request from Upston for an “initial set of options” that could reduce the population.

New Zealand’s prison populations sits at about 10,200 – the highest it has ever been.

While much information is withheld, the briefing does contain some insight into how the prison population has risen so high – a surge of 20 percent since 2014 – and the tough decisions looming. “Long term, the Government will have a choice between the extent of additional investment in prison capacity, or policy and investment decisions across the justice sector that ‘pull back’ the demand curve,” the briefing says.
….
But the Corrections briefing squarely points the finger at law changes that have seen the remand population balloon. In 2013 the Government changed the Bail Act to make it tougher to get bail, particularly for violent and drug-related crimes. The briefing reveals that in reality, the changes led to a need for 10 times the number of prison beds initially estimated. When the policy was designed, justice officials believed a mere 50 extra beds would be needed each year, but actual demand was for an additional 500. Restorative justice changes had also created demand 10 times the original estimate of 10 beds a year. It would be “useful” to understand why these figures had been so wrong, the briefing says. …

So what do we do about an out of control prison population? They aren’t asking me, but I have some advice anyway:

The band-aid solution is to change sentencing laws so as to send fewer people to prison. Revisit the 2103 law changes and reverse where sensible. Also, treating marijuana and other drug use as a health issue rather than a legal issue would be a good place to start.

A better solution is to put resources into rehabilitation and the prevention of re-offending, instead of prisons.

The best solution is to fix the social conditions that drive crime. The conditions that are giving us more and more frequent headlines such as these:
Aggravated robberies almost double in a year, with an average of one robbery a day reported in South Auckland.
Auckland City Mission overflowing with need in desperate winter months
Faced with skyrocketing power bills, Kiwis opt not to use heaters – survey
Te Puea Marae ready to welcome the homeless
Understanding these conditions isn’t rocket science. Poverty. Inequality. The same desperate lack of hope that gives this country its shocking suicide statistics. Address these issues, fix these causes, and the prison numbers will take care of themselves.

70 comments on “Nats panic over climbing prison population – I have some advice”

  1. Xanthe 1

    Yes eliminate poverty is the only approach that can work.

    I do question the use of incarceration as a deterrent!. Is there evidence it does deter?
    I also question the concept of incarceration as retrebution. Is that ethical. Or is the ultimate cost to society too high?

    Which leaves just one reason for a custodial sentence. To protect the physical safety of public or offender, and only one reason to release , that that risk no longer exists.

    Perhaps those with a “debt to society” should if at all possible be out in society paying that “debt”

    • I do question the use of incarceration as a deterrent!. Is there evidence it does deter?

      There’s probably some but it would be on the low side. The criminals who do the most damage to society, the so-called white collar criminals, usually don’t see the inside of a prison anyway and they’re likely to be the ones who are most deterred by the idea of going to prison but they’ll probably still do it believing that they’re too smart to get caught.

      I also question the concept of incarceration as retrebution. Is that ethical.

      Retribution is never ethical which is why it’s not left to the victims.

      Which leaves just one reason for a custodial sentence. To protect the physical safety of public or offender, and only one reason to release , that that risk no longer exists.

      Which is why, IMO, only violent offenders and those who commit fraud should be going to jail.

  2. Keith 2

    Treating methamphetamine addiction (and other drugs) as a mental health issue and having long term residential treatment centers as the primary response to users would be far more sensible than court action followed by punishment.

    Dealers, manufacturers and importers, that is where serious punitive measures are required.

    • James 2.1

      That makes a a lot of sense.

      I believe anyone involved in making P or importing it should be on 20’years Min.

      Make the punishment so hard they don’t think it’s worth the risk.

      • garibaldi 2.1.1

        That’s 20 years@ $100,000 a year. Great economics! There’s gotta be better solutions than long stretches of incarceration.

        • dukeofurl 2.1.1.1

          A Non violent crime like that would have a parole after 1/3 sentence and likely pre release and similar stuff at 1/4. So the cost is for 4-5 years only

          • James 2.1.1.1.1

            And that’s the problem $xxxx for 5 years – it might be worth the risk.

            But 20 years – nope.

            • mickysavage 2.1.1.1.1.1

              I have acted for many people who have gone to jail. I can’t recall one of them making a calculation that because they might go to jail for longer they would not commit a particular crime.

              When they hit the straight and narrow and many of them did they made that choice because either they realised the effect crime was having on their life or more often they had beaten dependence on drugs or alcohol that was the cause of their offending.

              • dukeofurl

                Isnt sentencing for most people a ladder- initial offences are dealt with by community service and then home detention, after regular offending the prison sentence kicks in.
                And once they have gone to prison if they continue to offend then prison becomes the base sentence instead of the outlier

                Once a guy went to prison after a conviction for stealing a valuable painting from a gallery. But at the same time he was convicted for a something like kidnapping, and had previous offences.

                I may have this wrong, but unless its a serious first time offence, prison is rightly seen as the worst option.

              • RedLogix

                So if prison is not a deterrent to criminals mickey … what is?

                • cardassian

                  I think addressing the underlying causes rather than trying to deter the symptom.

                  • RedLogix

                    OK so we abandon deterrence and address all the underlying causes. Close down the courts, dump all the cops and empty the prisons. Is this working for you so far?

        • James 2.1.1.2

          I know but with the very long periods of time people will be less inclined to commit the crime – thus the numbers will go down.

          • One Two 2.1.1.2.1

            with being a ‘left leaning blog’ , right wing agitators will be less inclined to keep running their scripted lines

            No..it doesn’t always work out with simple logic, does it James…

            Perseverance…you have it, just as any ‘criminal’ set in their ways, does!

          • Muttonbird 2.1.1.2.2

            How cute. He thinks length of prison term as a deterrent works.

          • North 2.1.1.2.3

            James @ 2.1.1.2 in reply to MS……”I know but….”. Rinse and repeat ignorant soundbite. Already we’re NOT blowing $100K per person per year. Portray smug idiot. End of conversation. Choice !

          • barry 2.1.1.2.4

            evidence?

        • Keith 2.1.1.3

          The cost to society from this drug far exceeds the cost of locking up the scum who deal in it.

          • Andre 2.1.1.3.1

            A large part of the harm from criminalised drugs comes from the fact that it’s criminal is a huge barrier to users getting support to get off the drugs.

            • Keith 2.1.1.3.1.1

              There is NO support!

            • Ed 2.1.1.3.1.2

              Salon columnist and bestselling author Glenn Greenwald is the author of a new Cato Institute policy paper on Portugal’s pathbreaking and hugely successful drug decriminalization program.

        • Gabby 2.1.1.4

          That might be a saving, depending on how much damage they would be causing outside.

      • marty mars 2.1.2

        nice, so on a post about increasing prison numbers you suggest putting some people in prison for longer – duh

        • jcuknz 2.1.2.1

          An alternative is to shorten sentences but make it tougher and less a ‘better home away from home’. That should prove to be a deterent and cost saving?

          • marty mars 2.1.2.1.1

            It isn’t a home away from home – try staying in your bathroom until tomorrow and tell us how great it is for you.

          • North 2.1.2.1.2

            “That should prove to be a deterent and cost saving?”

            Bloody brilliant Junkcus.
            Make detritus pay for its detergent. Like Mexico.

  3. Andre 3

    For a long time I used to tie myself in mental knots about drugs, and how our approach to the criminality of drugs should be informed by the relative harms of the drugs compared to alcohol and tobacco etc etc.

    Then recently someone really clarified it for me: criminalising drug use causes way more harm to society and users than using the drugs ever does.

    So the reasonable response is to legalise all drugs (yes, even the likes of P), regulate and tax the supply side, provide support services to help users get off the drugs. Simply remove the demand for illicit criminal suppliers, and prosecute the remaining illicit suppliers for financial crimes like we do for moonshiners and black market tobacco.

    • Keith 3.1

      Legalising methamphetamine suggests to me you live under a rock and have not dealt with the horrendus fall out this brain altering substance causes. The damage it is doing is incalculable.

      Might as well legalise murder.

      • Andre 3.1.1

        A large part of the harm from criminalised drugs comes from the fact that it’s criminal is a huge barrier to users getting support to get off the drugs.

        • dukeofurl 3.1.1.1

          Have you ever had knowledge of treatment programs?

          The addictive nature means only a proportion succeed even when motivated to kick the habit.

          Thats the HUGE barrier.

    • Yes, well, the idea of legalising all drugs has been around for quite a while.

      Today there are not enough support people or programs to help people who are ready to make the changes. Today we still have massive problems in society with legal drugs – whether alcohol or paracetamol.

      Treating drug addiction like an addiction, a health issue, is the way to go imo.

    • Cricklewood 3.3

      If you legalized and made available less harmful drugs like mdma or lsd you would likely cause an immediate drop on meth use and uptake

  4. Ed 4

    Norway’s solutions.

  5. North 5

    Your maths DukeofUrl ! First parole on 20 years comes after 1/3 = 6.666. First parole doesn’t guarantee release anyway, in fact it’s seen only in a minority of cases and usually only for up-market fraudsters so criminally culpable that the end sentence exceeds 2 years.

    So where from your 4-5 years ? Talking 1/3 that extra two to three years really matters when it’s $100K a year. Obviously matters more when release doesn’t happen until 2/3.

    The pathology is seen in a politically motivated distortion of the balance between the chucking of red meat to scum (McVicar/McMansion/McCabre) and rationally considered solutions. Wherein “politically motivated” essentially = “What can I say to protect the power and privilege of me and mine ?”

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      Yes you are right, parole can occur at 6.333 years, but pre release parole/ home detention happens too, thats where I was getting the extra 2 years from

      The formal parole used to be the start of various forms of release , now its the end point.
      The parole Board stats are meaningless as we dont know what the length of sentences are , for which people are being paroled. They just give raw numbers for those on fixed sentences and the others ( ‘Life’ and indeterminate)

      • North 5.1.1

        Strange. Near uniformly late in sentence and rare anyway. As far as I’ve observed it.

  6. Heather Grimwood 6

    Seems to me that most contributors above commenting on fast-escalating prison population are ignoring the import of the last paragraph in the post……” the best solution is to fix the conditions that cause the crime etc”.
    The more insightful officials in charge of managing early ‘settlement’ of Australia understood this.
    These measures have been known for a very long time, but somehow in our land of supposed milk and honey, a punitively weighted culture has been in control for a decade with it’s inevitable result.

    • Ed 6.1

      That’s why I posted the well researched articles about Norway and the investigations completed by Nigel Latta and al-Jazeera.

      • dukeofurl 6.1.1

        Just choosing a country that bears no resemblance to NZ society will work wont it. ?

        They are an extremely wealthy country, with a low crime rate, yet their police numbers are similar ( for a similar sized population)

        • Ed 6.1.1.1

          Have you watched any of these show?
          Before you come to judgement on the matter.

          • dukeofurl 6.1.1.1.1

            Well countries come here to and see how we are doing some good things.

            Like I said before Norway is a very wealthy country, likely a large factor to their lower offending.
            Can we just wish our way to that sort of wealth ?

            The other thing to consider is Maori, we have to have our own solutions that work with and for them.
            This sort of ‘ punishment tourism’ with Latta by looking at Norway just smacks of ‘white people know best’

            Do you know any working class maori who know what gangs do ? You have this exaggerated faith on reading books and documentaries on ‘solutions’

  7. Heather Grimwood 7

    To Ed at 6.1: Yes, I realise that Ed….good stuff indeed.

    • Ed 7.1

      However, what are the chances James and his ilk will watch any of the material?
      Or will they continue with their highly opinionated viewpoints as if that information is not out there?

  8. Heather Grimwood 8

    To Ed at 7.1 Compassion, empathy, maturity, required to forestall prison numbers in first place, and most importantly the more equal society that a government with those attributes would produce.

  9. When the policy was designed, justice officials believed a mere 50 extra beds would be needed each year, but actual demand was for an additional 500. Restorative justice changes had also created demand 10 times the original estimate of 10 beds a year. It would be “useful” to understand why these figures had been so wrong, the briefing says. …

    That tells me that the people who chose those figures probably did so to get the policy through. Two possibilities present:

    1. Given three possible estimates, low, medium and high, from the government department responsible for producing them the government chose the lower and possibly lowered it even further.
    2. The government didn’t even ask the government department for an estimate and simply Made Shit Up™.

    Looking at the difference between the estimated and the actual figures I’d say it was the second.

    So what do we do about an out of control prison population? They aren’t asking me, but I have some advice anyway:

    1. Don’t imprison non-violent offenders unless it’s for over a set amount, say, $100k and let out all present non-violent prisoners with an ankle bracelet
    2. Decriminalise and legalise recreational drugs
    3. Better work on rehabilitation for all crims
    4. Address the causes of crime especially poverty

    • greywarshark 9.1

      Too true DTb
      There needs to be long-term interest and occasional help after the initial course of training and workshopping with a prisoner, or derailed prisoner. Asking them to choose a couple of interests, and succeed at sticking at one of them to an agreed finish. People tell me if I want to make a change in my habits I’ll have to do the new things for 3 months or so. If we know that it takes a while why should prisoners who need to adopt a new way of life not get long-term help.

      And it can be borne in mind that what most have been doing is work of a kind but that is not countenanced by our law. Find better work that will suit their approach to life and reward it with some money, and some in-kind payment like a permanent room of their own in a communal house where they can mix with good sorts they can enjoy being with, and who are all managing a non-predatory life. Plus finding something they can make, some expressive way of their interest, creating something and soon the prison population would halve, and better they would be better role models to the children around them, and the animals.

  10. millsy 10

    I think what is most disturbing is the tendency for the prison and court system to be used as entertainment. The deluge of reality TV shows about life in US and UK prisons, as well as court proceedings illustrate this.

    The extremely irrepsonsible “60 Days In”, putting ordinary people into prisons undercover to uncover corruption (something that should be done by experienced policemen out of the public eye), seems to be more about explotiation and money making for entertainment than anything else.

  11. Foreign waka 11

    A lot can be said about the reasoning behind the offending in NZ but drugs are certainly right up there. I wont be apologetic but I would a/ deport those who import and distribute if they are from overseas and b/ have compulsory treatment for those who offend and are NZ citizen. Not just 2 weeks, no 12 months minimum treatment.
    As for those cretins who bash minimum wage earners because they think they are entitled to rob a dairy or service station, they need to be incarcerated and then put to work. Yes, you know all those infrastructure workloads where no labour can be found.
    In the end a society has to make a decision – whether the victim is in the right or the perpetrator. It’s this on the fence sitting, political correctness wishiwashi that brought us where we are.

    • marty mars 11.1

      you do realise who uses all the ‘p’ in society, you do realise it takes money to buy that ‘p’ – target the real users – hint – go to Auckland or Wellington and set a fire alarm off in a big office block and ‘p’ test every single white collar boss and middle manager that comes out – better yet try it at parliament or Police HQ or Defense HQ or a big insurance company or bank. You may be surprised at how many will be deported on the next flight out to the UK or where ever.

      • Foreign waka 11.1.1

        So be it. If we REALLY want to put and end to it, something drastic needs to be done.

        • marty mars 11.1.1.1

          and that is the kicker

          why do we want to put an end to it – to stop suffering? the addicts? their families ? Us?

          Are they suffering because they take the drugs or suffering and then they take the drugs to try and reduce their suffering?

          Very challenging area to try and help people.

  12. North 12

    Trouble is @ 8 above Heather; that when “Compassion, empathy, maturity” comes from the rightists it’s just super. Shows how modern they are and how much they care etc etc. From anyone else it’s soft-headed and weak.

    The rightists’ problem – http://wist.info/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/Galbraith-selfishness-wist_info.jpg

    • Heather Grimwood 12.1

      To North at 12 and to Anthony : I am still perturbed that almost all the comments above focus on what to DO with offenders, not on how to prevent the offending in the first place by providing a decent society where all are more equal i.e. have expectations for life in a culture which facilitates that.

      • Incognito 12.1.1

        A better solution is to put resources into rehabilitation and the prevention of re-offending, instead of prisons.

        The generalised answer is in the OP.

        The causes that led to incarceration are complex and multi-factorial. But we (society) have to do what we can to break the cycle of re-offending and the current revolving doors that’s become a booming and burgeoning prison industry that’s a growing burden on the Tax Payer and a slight on our country.

        First and foremost, offenders should stop being bad role models for others. The best way to achieve this is to ‘keep them busy’, e.g. give them a job that gives them a real chance to rehabilitate.

        If we’re serious about this, and we should be, then we’ll find a way to deal with it in better ways than we have been IMO.

  13. greywarshark 13

    What have I got to lose with Nothing is the answer. That would be the basis of decision making for many. Change the answer, give some positives in their lives instead of the deadly negativity even hate that guides so much of the actions and thoughts of the leaders and their cohorts and many of their managers.

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