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Sensible Sentencing Trust and GEO Group, a deafening silence

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, March 11th, 2009 - 33 comments
Categories: corruption, prisons, privatisation - Tags: , ,

Yesterday Tane did an excellent post speculating on links between the Sensible Sentencing Trust and GEO Group. GEO Group derived from the notorious Wackenhut Corrections and it now wants to run privately run and publically funded prisons in NZ. In the US, the GEO Group supports organizations preaching almost exactly the messages as the SST does here.

What has been really intriguing was the reaction (or rather the lack of it) from the supporters of the Sensible Sentencing Trust in the blogosphere. The only response has been a press release from Garth McVicar. This interesting document contains the usual attack lines on The Standard culled from the wingnut sites. Perhaps he should read our About which clearly states what type of site this is, the diversity of opinion of the writers, and who funds it. That way he will avoid the earlier gaffs by Bill English on that subject.

The few points in the press release, that do not relate to our site, carefully avoid the question of funding of the Sensible Sentencing Trust. It looks like badly written classic PR misdirection.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is funded by public donations and receives no government funding.

It doesn’t state that they have or have not received any donations from GEO Group because their ‘public’ donations are not available to public scrutiny. They get donations received from the ‘public’, which could include donations from GEO Corp.

They even had the audacity to suggest that someone should ask who was paying my salary.

Tane didn’t even mention who was paying for Garth McVicar, just the funding of the Sensible Sentencing Trust in relation to private prison operators.

This press release raises even more questions about the role of the Sensible Sentencing Trust and its underlying financial support than it clears. It would have been easy for Garth to simply say that they have not received donations from private prison operators. That was not done, which makes the silence on this subject extremely interesting.

So I’ll reiterate the points and questions that Tane raised that the SST should answer …

The extremely well funded and media savvy Sensible Sentencing Trust has come to dominate our public discussion on law and order in recent years but they’ve steadfastly refused to reveal where their funding is coming from. Their policy platform of ‘truth in sentencing’ and ‘three strikes’ matches ALEC’s right down to the rhetoric.

As we’ve pointed out in the past, the SST has gone to such lengths to hide their funding that they’ve publicly refused to comply with the Electoral Finance Act and have even declined to register under the Charities Act despite the tax benefits, because doing so would force some transparency over who’s paying the bills.

In the interests of democracy, now would be the time to start putting some hard questions to Garth McVicar about whether his organisation has received any funding or help from GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America or any other private prison company or interest group.

These are legitimate questions to ask a lobby group that is pushing for changes in public policy and therefore public funding. Garth McVicar should answer those questions unequivocally and without the deliberate ambuigity of his last press release. If not, then perhaps the NACT government should ask them of their SST member David Garrett. The formation of public policy should be done in a transparent way, and not distorted by the private interference of a beneficary of those policy changes.

33 comments on “Sensible Sentencing Trust and GEO Group, a deafening silence”

  1. Kevin Welsh 1

    Mmmmm, “day of reckoning” eh Garth?

    What the fuck is he on?

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    It’s groups like the SST that make me think that a law that simply states

    All institutions set up to influence the public must make their funding sources publicly available.

    You cannot have anonymity in a democracy as such can be used to hide corruption.

    • lprent 2.1

      We do.. All $160 per month + GST funded by that radical leftie Lynn Prentice. Looks like it will drop to less than $30 per month after I site offshore to avoid S92A problems.

      Actually most people on the left seem to consider that I’m a conservative or even a neo-lib. Has something to do with the dinky sports-car, business background, MBA etc.

      I just have a complete intolerance for fools. That also means I avoid the ‘right’ like the stuck in the past plague that they are, and makes me wonder about a nutter who can put out the type of press release that McVicar did. It is almost a d4j level. In fact it looks like the work of the bloated one. I was going over to have a look at style, but it looks like Cameron’s site is offline again. Technically incompetent…

    • lprent 2.2

      nah it looks like it is just a dog of a site to load. Also technically incompetent to load it down with twitter and facebook slowdowns. He should have a look at his site with tools to look at the delay points. Boy that guy knows how to downgrade a site.

      Nope – I think that press release of McVicar’s is too literate to be a product of Cameron Slater. Besides it doesn’t have a boob shot to try and raise site awareness

  3. Ianmac 3

    If you have nothing to hide, why bluster Garth? Methinks he does protest……. Would it be shameful if the lobby group for GEO funded and advised SST? PERhaps. Illegal? Doubt it so Garth why not be open?

  4. Quoth the Raven 4

    Good article recently on this tough on crime bullshit at Socialist worker. The policy that keeps on failing.

    In studying 34 states, Pew researchers found that it cost 22 times more money per day to incarcerate people than to supervise them in the community–the cost per prisoner is, on average, $29,000 a year. As a result, $9 out of every $10 spent on corrections goes to prisons.

    Pressured in part by rapidly increasing budget deficits, some politicians are starting to support diverting money from prisons to community supervision and drug treatment programs for nonviolent property- and drug-related crimes.

    Thus, New York’s notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws are headed toward reform. Enacted in the 1970s, these laws imposed prison sentences of 10, 15 and 20 years on people found guilty of low-level drug offenses–even if it was their first conviction. A bill to repeal these laws has passed the State Assembly and is under consideration in the Senate.

    So while some places in the US are starting to rethink the lock em up and throw away the key approach New Zealand with the conservatives in charge are trying their hardest to repeat the same mistakes.

    • higherstandard 4.1

      I didn’t know that anyone in NZ was proposing prison sentences of 10, 15 and 20 years for people found guilty of low-level drug offenses – this would seem to be very odd – have you got a link ?

      • Quoth the Raven 4.1.1

        You know what I’m talking about D4J no.2 we’re heading down the same path as the US, for example the three strikes law. It’s a path that has not lead to lower crime, a path that has been immensely expensive (think what that money could’ve done if spent on education see this article) has made a mockery of the US justice system and has needlessly brutalised millions of Americans and it’s a path the conservatives seem determined on taking us down here.

  5. Matthew Pilott 5

    “Whacky” lefties? I thought he was the one all keen to ‘Whack’ people. What a munter.

  6. ieuan 6

    It is hard to know the status of this organisation.

    On their website they say they have ‘charitable trust status’ but a search on the charities commission website reveals nothing for ‘Sensible Sentencing’ or ‘SST’ so the question is ‘are they a charity or not’?

    Garth McVicar really is a munter, putting out a press release like this just makes him look like an idiot.

    Pity that doesn’t count as 1 strike, there would only be 2 more to go and we would never hear from him again!

    • Ianmac 6.1

      Ieun: Well done. The apparent conflict between charitable trust status or not, could be serious area of concern for SST. A bit like an MP claiming one thing and not expecting anyone to check.

  7. BLiP 7

    Good on the blogshpere – and The Standard in particular – for attempting to keep this pack of bastards honest. Thank you.

  8. Chess Player 8

    There are some very strange people in this world.

  9. Tane 9

    “Whacky”? As in “whack”? What a munter.

  10. TomSe 10

    It appears the day of reckoning is at hand. Man, I wish that was done on IRC the mods would totally kick him for a threat like that.

  11. Ieuean

    It looks like they are registered as a company. If you go to http://www.societies.govt.nz and search you will find them that way. Their trust deed is there but nothing else.

    Arguably they should not state they are charitable. Section 37 of the Charities Act 2005 states:

    (1) A person must not—
    (a) use a style or title including the words “”registered charitable entity'” ; or
    (b) state or imply, or permit a statement or implication, that—
    (i) the person is registered as a charitable entity under this Act; or
    (ii) an entity that the person acts on behalf of is registered as a charitable entity under this Act.

    “Registered charitable entity” is defined as “a society, an institution, or the trustees of a trust that is or are registered as a charitable entity under [the Charities Act 2005]”, that is not under the 1957 Act which is a different beast.

    A complaint may be in order.

    • Pascal's bookie 11.1

      Good stuff micky.

      Are you there Garth?

    • lprent 11.2

      Ummm that press release says

      The Sensible Sentencing Trust is a registered charitable trust with IRD approved donee status

      Be interesting to figure out the actual status. But the effect is the same – they aren’t under the Charities Act, therefore they don’t have to disclose donations. Anyone could be financing them.

      • mickysavage 11.2.1

        What they are saying is presumably factually correct but if someone was so motivated they could still complain to the Charities Commission. Section 37 appears to stop any entity advertising that they are charitable unless they are registered under the new Act.

        Also the Charities website states under reasons for seeking registration “[o]nly charities registered with the Charities Commission can call themselves a “registered charitable entity” and display their unique Charities Commission registration number.”

        The link is at http://www.charities.govt.nz/guidance/unregistered.html#should_i_apply_to_register

        • Draco T Bastard 11.2.1.1

          So… The SST is breaking the law?

          I say we throw the book at them, THE BOOK I tells ya…

    • Oops I should have said “charitable trust under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957” and not “company” although the certificate of incorporation says it was “incorporated under the Companies Act … and was registered as a charitable trust (Shares (limited liability) …”

  12. killinginthenameof 12

    Some random impertinent questions for ACT:

    Was David Garretts seat sold in exchange for the support of the Sensible Sentacing Trust, in the same way Shawn Tans one was sold for the support of the AACG?

    Are they aware of the funding arragements of the Sensible Sentacing Trust?

    Would and of thier social policies be of significant economic advantage too plausable potential donors to the Sensible Sentacing Trust?

    Is this corruption?

  13. Question.

    Why, because they (the SST) are not declaring their donors does it mean that the CEO Group is a donor?

    Where is the link or evidence?

    If I speculated that the SST had themes similar to some Islamic groups espousing elements of Sharia’h law and then they did not either confirm or deny, does that make it true?

    It’s all just wild (extremely wild) speculation.

    XChequer
    http://thenzhomeoffice.blogspot.com/

    • Matt Holland 13.1

      “If I speculated that the SST had themes similar to some Islamic groups espousing elements of Sharia’h law and then they did not either confirm or deny, does that make it true?”

      Instead of speculating yourself, why don’t you make those claims and see if the DO confirm or deny.

      I suspect you know full well they will deny it…. now why don’t they do the same to the much less wild speculation on their funding?

    • lprent 13.2

      Don’t be lazy. Go back to the original post.

      The question was that since the GEO Group donated to groups in the US advocating changes to sentencing, were they doing the same for a group in NZ that espouse exactly the same changes.

      Since those changes would benefit the operation of a private prisons, and GEO Group is trying to run private prisons here, it is a question that has some relevance to the transparency of policy making.

  14. Lee 14

    Quit pussy footing around. Legalize substances and deal with it what happens or get serious with this prohibition experiment.

    Random house to house searches of everyone everywhere will show us who the law breakers are. On the spot executions (bullet to the head) of everyone found in possession of detectable molecules of illegal plants will send a powerful message and will quickly lower the number of evil doers in the world.

    Mass exterminations are clean and simple. Mass incarcerations are just a big mess.

  15. Chris G 15

    I’ve never seen an SST supporter wandering around the streets with a donation bucket… thats for sure.

    Come to think of it I dont think I’ve ever seen an SST supporter other than Garth McVicar.

    Confused? I definately am.

  16. I think that the SST has a problem. I have hopefully drafted a more coherent response on my blog at

    http://waitakerenews.blogspot.com/2009/03/sensible-sentencing-trust-and-charities.html

    Strike one?

  17. Pascal's bookie 17

    Chris Trotter’s ODT column is on this today, though he doesn’t credit any bloggers, sigh.

    It’s good, but he takes a cutesy allegorical route to avoid naming names. Which means he can’t include the fact that after the questions are put, the SST responded without answering.

    It should be up on his blog at some point.

    • lprent 17.1

      Thanks, I’ll look out for it. This is such an interesting topic – the question of hidden lobbying and PR. I think it is something that we’ll refer to often over the next few years until we get an answer

  18. teitei 18

    [deleted] why’d you take my comment off? [deleted]

    [lprent: because you are banned for previous stupid comments. Adding you to the auto-moderation. Read policy and stop being a fuckwit]

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