The NZ Herald editorial criticising National’s pursuit of a private prison in Auckland should make Judith Collins and her cabinet colleagues sit up and rethink. Entitled ‘Benefits’ of new prison an absurdity , the Herald editorial says:
Something is clearly awry when a Government proclaims the economic benefits of a new prison. Yet just that is happening with a 960-bed jail at Wiri, which is scheduled to be designed, built and operated under a public-private partnership… Most countries have been loath to entrust prisoner welfare to private contractors….
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has noted that the Corrections vote, which encompasses policing, prisons and justice, will soon be the single biggest budget expenditure. In large part, this is the inevitable upshot of an imprisonment rate that is the second highest in the developed world.
Thus, rather than applauding benefits to be had from higher crime and more prisoners, Ms Collins should be concentrating on the economic pluses of reducing the jail population. She needs to comprehensively reset her compass.
Other politicians are providing a lead. In Britain, the new Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, intends to cut the number of people being sent to jail. He says prison does not always work and is often a waste of money, and that many inmates guilty of petty crimes should not be there.
Can either main party get beyond the popular rhetoric of ‘tough on crime’ and start reducing numbers, and lift the pressure to build more prisons?