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Small start to inflated bullshit.

Written By: - Date published: 11:05 am, October 29th, 2019 - 14 comments
Categories: articles, blogs, Kelvin Davis, Media, Politics, uncategorized - Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was reading one of Chris Trotters reflections at Bowalley Road this weekend which looked at the Corrections Amendment Bill 2018, that just passed its 3rd reading. “Putting The Check In Right-Wing Prisoners’ Mail” appears to claim that the whole of the bill was to :-

When a letter penned by the alleged Christchurch Shooter was mistakenly permitted to leave Paremoremo Maximum Security Prison […] an immediate cry went up for increased legal restrictions on prisoners’ right to communicate with the outside world.


No matter that the power already existed to censor or withhold prisoners’ mail; […]


[it] offered a wonderful opportunity to place upon the statute books, for the first time, vastly expanded legal powers to restrict New Zealand citizens’ and residents’ freedom of expression. 

(my apologies for the shortened quotes – I removed some of the florid flourishes to get get to the claim – my sections in italics).

I thought that was rather odd. Mostly because I hadn’t heard anything about this.

So I had a look at the bill (as passed in committee). As with all of these amendment bills it is an amalgam of rewrites of sections of the existing Act from 2004. In programmers terms, it is a ‘diff’ of what was changes, additions or deletions. Often with the previous text and amendments to the proposed bill (as shown below). 

One of the problems with Chris Trotter’s article was that he didn’t state what the section he was complaining about. After searching it for a while, I still wasn’t too sure about exactly which section he was talking about.

So I dug around on the web for a few minutes and pulled up overviews from the Law Society, and the documents pre-released  from the Cabinet Social Wellbeing Committee. Curiously, neither made any particular mention of the heinous small crime against ‘Free Speech’ (such a silly misnomer) that Chris was asserting. Which was surprising since both were about the bill after the third and second reading respectively.

I suspect that what he was referring to were these two changes.

They are an extension of section 104 which relates to sending mail and the balancing between maintaining the privacy and family contacts of prisoners with the countervailing organisation of intimidation of witnesses and prison smuggling. Section 108 is all about same but related to receiving of mail.

Both appear to be updates to take notice of the changes to the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Victims Support 2002.

Plus the increasing emphasis in the courts of ensuring that trials and appeals in court aren’t interfered with arseholes with keyboards who temporarily feel that rules and laws of our civilisation do not constrain them – ie people like Cameron Slater or Dermot Nottingham. The complete self-entitled dickheads of the net.

Anyway, I can’t see how either of these changes constrain the freedom of expression protections in the Bill of Rights Act 1990. Mostly what they appear to be doing is setting the balance points of the several different Acts within the very specialised confines of Corrections Act.

Normally this low level balance functionality would just be left to the courts. However like children, the mentally inform, and other specialised groups – prisoners are in a strange place legally. They have a set of appointed guardians who need to have clear positions and responsibilities about what is permissible legally. After all, prisoners have limited recourse to courts outside of their cases and appeals. Which is why the Corrections Act gets 193 pages of detailed instructions.

These clauses are just tighter specifications about what the balance points are. Not only for the public service, bit also for the contractors at places like the Wiri prison. 

In my searching, about the only thing that I found that even referred to these sections was this dog whistling from Kelvin Davis, Minister of Corrections

“During the Committee of the Whole House, I tabled a Supplementary Order Paper that made a number of changes, including strengthening prison mail laws.

“This puts Corrections in a much stronger position to stop prisoners sending mail that attempts to radicalise or influence others, promotes violence or hostility against our community, or re-victimises those who have already been hurt.

“We have added an explicit provision that allows for the withholding of prison mail that promotes or encourages hostility towards any group of people on the grounds set out in section 21 of the Human Rights Act,” Kelvin Davis said.

Which is where I suspect that Chris Trotter sourced his objections from – a press release from Kelvin Davis playing simple politics. Looking at press releases rather than looking at the legal sources is a mugs game. Between these two mugs, I can see another dumb arse internet  myth in the making that I have to deal with for the next decade.

Which is just irritating.

Mind you, that wasn’t the only bit of mythological bullshit floating around. What about this one in Chris Trotters column. 

How fortunate for the world that the First Amendment to the American Constitution made it impossible for Alabama’s prison authorities to avail themselves of legislation such as New Zealand’s Parliament has just passed. Had they possessed in 1963 the legal authority we have vouchsafed to our prison wardens in 2019, can it be doubted that Dr Martin Luther King’s celebrated “Letter From Birmingham City Jail” would never have seen the light of day? 

Ah yes. The number of things wrong with that paragraph bear observing. How fortunate that we have the internet and especially wikipedia – the starting point for drilling. I commend this innovation to Chris Trotter’s attention. 

It wasn’t ever a first amendment issue for the prison authority. The ‘letter’ wasn’t ever passed through the prison mail. Mostly because the 10-12 days that King was in jail on that occasion long enough to qualify for using mail. He was effectively on remand waiting for a court hearing having refused to ask for bail for political reasons.

The ‘letter’ was mostly passed to his lawyers in little bits.  That they were visiting was made under the cover by the 6th amendment on the right to counsel and attorney client privilege – and a little intervention from the Federal government.

It also wasn’t even a letter. The intended recipients were the New York Times as what was effectively an opinion piece. The kind of thing that these days mostly goes up and is read on the net.

If CT would care to look around the Corrections Act, he would find some instruction about the actual rights of prisoners in NZ. They don’t require constitutional protections. They just require the attention of people reading the proposed legislation and objecting at the appropriate times.

What did irritate me was that Chris Trotter missed the only important fact in these clauses. There were added by the Minister using a Supplementary Order Paper during the Committee stage.  If you look at the timeline, that means it effectively missed the whole of the select committee phase. That I don’t like. I can’t see any particular other cause for concern – except that Kelvin Davis really does need to be talked to about his press release dog whistling.

14 comments on “Small start to inflated bullshit. ”

  1. Dukeofurl 1

    Trotter was even wrong about the US 1st Amendment and prisoners mail. It may have grandiose words but as common with all the US Constitution , including firearms clause, is still subject to 'buts'


    " The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment entitles prisoners to receive and send mail, subject only to the institution’s need to protect security."

    In practice security is what ever they want it to mean.

    From the NZ reports , prisoners must be the last group in NZ still 'sending mail' as its said there are 15,000 outgoing mail items a week.

    • DS 1.1

      For what it is worth, prisoners do not have access to email. Snail-mail is their only option.

      • lprent 1.1.1

        It does seem archaic. I send maybe 3 bits of snail mail in local body election years. Less in off years. And I get probably about 10 bits of non junk mail a year.Even the junk mail is restricted to those who pay NZ post to deliver it.

        It is like land lines, cheque books, cassette tapes and buggy whips….

  2. Thanks for having a look at this comment from Bowalley Rd. I think that this paragraph from Trotter's blog sums up his concerns. Don't you think he has a point? He is very strong about being careful about freedoms of expression having been a political columnist lifelong. And once limits are embedded, getting them out again is very hard, perhaps impossible.

    … place upon the statute books, for the first time, vastly expanded legal powers to restrict New Zealand citizens’ and residents’ freedom of expression. With the passage of the Corrections Amendment Bill, content which, in the judgement of the prison authorities

    discriminates against any person on the basis of race, religious belief, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, disability, age, political opinion and employment status will constitute grounds for censoring and/or withholding a prisoner’s mail….

    There is, however, a very big difference between a prisoner like the Christchurch Shooter and your common-or-garden variety criminal with right-wing ideas. It’s a difference the new legislation declines to recognise. In addition to being punished for the crimes they have committed, right-wing inmates are to be further punished by having their internationally recognised right to communicate with the outside world made subject to the political judgements of their jailers. Offensive material published by persons living outside prison will continue to escape censorship. Prisoners’ opinions, on the other hand, may be legally suppressed.


    Preventing the viral communications of sick-minded supremacist ego-building thinking of would-be stars of terrorism and revenge is obviously important and must be stopped. I have also read of prisoners conducting communication campaigns against victims, which they have found distressing and seen as a continuance of the bullying and offensive behaviour carried out prior to being jailed. Trotter feels apparently that there should be another way of controlling that rather than a blanket ban affecting everybody.

    • Dukeofurl 2.1

      There also seems to be ongoing 'letter harassment' to various well known people. Its not at the level of threat , but Corrections seem to not be prepared to stop it when the recipients complain.

    • lprent 2.2

      The existing legislation currently is pretty specific around intimidation at a personal level and for preventing various kinds of smuggling and gang control.

      When it was last looked at, was before Facebook Twitter, blogs, and virtually all forms of online stalking and harassment. It was also behind the times because all of those things were on the immediate horizon. To get broadcast presence of the kind that was designed to intimidate etc, you had to get past the gatekeepers of the media.

      Now there are no gatekeepers. The cost of mass or targeted communication has plummeted. Now this site costs about $150 per month operational costs. You can launch a trashing on facebook for a few hundred with adverts. We have people around who will di a Cameron style attack on an individual for peanuts.

      And we have a prison population who have a vested interest in intimidating witnesses, victims and entire genders or races. They have associates who can do it for peanuts and without personal risk.

      If you look at just about every instance of online harassment there is outside of marital and teens, the vast majority have to do with legal issues. Effectively trying to do things without going through the expense of court.

      Yeah I think that this is a worthwhile precaution. Think of it as disrupting the control loop and doing it in a preemptive way. I can see this kind of remote harassment escalating fast with a business model like Whaleoil. And I can't think of a group more likely than people with interest in disrupting trials and appeals.

      It becomes a reserve power like martial law, those that constrain banks, all of the powers that police could use but don't, etc…

      If as a power it gets abused then I am happy to expose it. In exactly the same way that I'd be happy to look at HDCA abuses.

      That is ultimately the real balance. People dealing with a problem or an abuse of power granted.

      • greywarshark 2.2.1

        I think he is looking to the future and seeing this as the thin edge of the wedge, with all the rw governments that have come in around the world.

        • lprent

          The other future is that you find fan sites listening to their incarcerated gurus and stalking witnesses. Personally I prefer that the court system gets a chance to operate without online lynch mobs like the Whaleoil site synchronised lying specialized in. Because someone will try to.make a business out of it.

          This is just a belated modernization of the intimidation laws to cope with my online worlds.

          As to other areas. Well my freedom of expression includes being pretty objectionable about idiots who try to stop.me from expressing myself. That includes RW nutjobs and governments. I can do that well within the laws.

          It includes telling Chris that I think he is being a fool making a post from a press release without reading the sources. Also Kelvin dog whistling in the press release to NZ first voters and bringing it in after select committee scrutiny was finished.

  3. marty mars 3

    trotter has lowered his standards and ability to comprehend imo – hanging out with the righties too much

  4. michelle 4

    People like trotter get away with writing bullshit

  5. We might end up like the USA and their imprisonment regime for Muslims and 'second-tier terrorists'. I put this here because I think we should know about them, including that one is an environmentalist who has criticised the government! These prison units were opened in Bush's time. This Tedtalk is from

    But then there needs to be control of prisoners communications – keeping the fans stirred up, criminal bosses running their scams, the cruel husban.d

    Hence Trotter's concerns.

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