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Walking the Human Rights Tightrope in NZ Prisons

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 pm, April 1st, 2019 - 114 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, Christchurch Attack, crime, Deep stuff, Ethics, Media, prisons, Social issues, terrorism, violence against women - Tags: , , , , ,

Our prisons have appeared in the media recently amidst reports and claims of violations to human rights.

Whilst there will always be some in prison who complain that their juice isn’t served cold enough or that they didn’t get a bedtime story it would be wrong to assume all complaints are frivolous or that our prison population doesn’t deserve to be treated humanely.


According to the Department of Corrections:

“Prisoners have the right to be treated with humanity, dignity and respect while in prison.”

These rights are outlined in the Corrections Act 2004, Section 69 .

The principles of this Act point out that the maintenance of public safety and consideration for the victim’s interests are paramount when considering offender management.  

All other rights for prisoners come second.

Some of the reports have confirmed not only breaches of human rights but also of law.  Up to 34 women have been penetrated in unlawful internal searches for contraband and in all cases no contraband was found.  

Department of Corrections has apologised to 15 women and is looking to locate at least 14 others  who were subjected to unlawful internal searches.

Although these women have been compensated, I’m left wondering how the hell we’re supposed to trust our justice system when they either deliberately violate the law or, more worryingly, do so out of ignorance?

Why haven’t those staff involved been charged with sexual assault?

The “consent” these women gave is invalid because it was not informed and it was given under duress.

The investigation into the searches revealed no “malicious or improper intention” but I call bullshit.  The only way to determine intent is to ask those accused and I doubt they would admit to enjoying violating the rights and bodies of prisoners if that was the case.  

I’m also wonder why, if no improper intent was involved, that Corrections is pursuing legal action against one of the doctors they terminated?

Considering it took at least ten years for them to investigate claims of illegal internal searches what culpability do they have and is paying financial compensation enough of a wake-up call to get their shit together?

Other criticisms of our penal system focus on the need to meet the mental health requirements of prisoners in administrative segregation (adseg).  

Whilst it is appropriate and legal to isolate prisoners who pose a threat to the safety and security of others or to ensure their own safety we have a duty to ensure our prison population isn’t being harmed in the process.

One prisoner has complained of not being allowed to have visitors or make phone calls whilst also being denied access to newspapers, media and television.

Some claim this amounts to inhuman treatment but my enquiries today confirmed that all prisoners, even those in adseg, have access to mental health professionals, religious support people and can ask to talk to someone for any reason, at any time.

 Further, my sources told me that most prison have their own mental health policies and dedicated teams who focus on ensuring an individual’s mental health is protected and that they are constantly working to add a wider variety of supports.

Given the abhorrent abuses mentioned earlier and other reports such as a prisoner being kept in restraints with his hands behind his back for 10 weeks, I’m not comforted by their comments.

But I’m also challenged to find room for compassion when our prisons house some of the vilest excuses for a human.  

Convicted child sex offender, Phillip John Smith, complained, and was compensated, after being strip searched.

Being required to lift my penis and testicles and expose my rectum was the most humiliating aspect of the search for me” he told the High Court in Auckland on Monday.

I felt belittled and dehumanised.”

And this is the problem; in an attempt to provide for the needs and well-being of the prison population the rules also provide avenues to abuse the system.

 Phillip Smith is a prime example with his whining about being dehumanised whilst showing no such consideration for his victims.

This cockroach had access to a computer suite whilst detained at Paremoremo prison, computers that were later revealed to contain child porn.  He also managed to acquire a fake passport from inside prison.

Our justice system is one of checks and balances where every measure of control is weighed up against the rights of prisoners.  We must be mindful that the ultimate goal of any justice system is to afford society a safer environment and not one of retribution but I’ll be the first to admit that’s a bitter pill to swallow.  

But I remind myself that not all who are in prison ought to be there and that any attempt to create discomfort for cockroaches will also be visited on those wrongfully convicted or those imprisoned for marijuana charges.


114 comments on “Walking the Human Rights Tightrope in NZ Prisons ”

  1. Chris T 1

    “This cockroach had access to a computer suite whilst detained at Paremoremo prison, computers that were later revealed to contain child porn.”


    Do you have a link to this as that is seriously bad?

    I am not suggesting you are not speaking the truth, just hadn’t heard

      • Chris T 1.1.1



        How fucking hard is it to screen a limited number of internet traffic for dodgy stuff on a limited number of domains?

        Businesses do it every fricken day

        Who ever or what ever company they have no doubt “out sourced” it to and who ever does suite access should be turfed

        • WeTheBleeple

          Absolutely. Internet access for prisoners should be all but eliminated. Exceptions might be for things like:

          Educational sites for prisoners doing courses associated with those specific sites.

          Legal sites for prisoners swotting up on themselves, or on behalf of others.

          Unsupervised, prisoners have all day every day to think about how to fool their jailers. And fool them they do, constantly. Especially when a bunch of them work in concert to create the appearance of one thing occurring while doing another.

          The internet is made of smoke and mirrors at the best of times. Who is doing what where and why can’t we stop them… For prisons, a network administrator should be available to hand pick select pages allowed through, and consistently randomly check pages to see they are what’s on the label.

          A faraday cage around the prison to nullify all wifi. External port for prison net admin. Internal internet on cable only.

          • Maggie

            Exactly. A faraday cage wouldn’t work but it’s easy enough to air gap a system and only provide offline material. Supervision is key and obviously no one was watching.

            • WeTheBleeple

              Yeah not clued up on electronics but knew the general idea would carry.

              Anyone trusting men with nothing to lose is a fool.

  2. Blazer 2

    ‘Being required to lift my penis and testicles and expose my rectum was the most humiliating aspect of the search for me” he told the High Court in Auckland on Monday.
    “I felt belittled and dehumanised.”

    So is this actually illegal?

    My understanding is that is standard practice at least on admission to prison.

    • Maggie 2.1

      Yes, it’s legal if the staff have “reasonable grounds”.


      But…’reasonable grounds’ is pretty much a blank cheque with no hard and fast criteria other than that the officer must have information by means of sight, smell, touch, hearing that indicates the prisoner might be concealing something.

      Only 15% of searches were done on ‘reasonable grounds’ according to an investigation and contraband found in less than 2% of all searches.

      • Puckish Rogue 2.1.1

        Well of course, how else can we do it?

        The prisoners aren’t going to say “hey I’ve got something on me but I won’t tell you what it is” so yeah we do strip searches and even if we don’t find anything it still lets the prisoners know that we are checking, a preventative measure if you like

        Simply put prisoners will do whatever it takes to circumvent the rules so we have to visually check where we can’t see and you’d be surprised at what can be hidden on someones body


        • Maggie

          I don’t think it’s appropriate to subject all prisoners to strip searching when statistically less than 2% of searches find anything. It’s a small step to then do full body cavity searches.

          • Puckish Rogue

            You’re of course welcome to think whatever you like as long as you understand that you’re also wrong.

            In our unit strip searches are generally done when someone has been out of the unit (work release for example) or at random.

            It doesn’t mean every prisoner is strip searched every day however every prisoner is strip searched when first entering prison.

            Also, as per our training, we don’t search any cavity. If anything is up there or suspected of being in there then the prisoner is put in a dry cell until they take a dump in a bucket

    • Puckish Rogue 2.2

      Yes its standard practice, its done to protect the safety of other prisoners and the staff.

    • Bruce 2.3

      when they did it to me in watch room with them all watching i just grabbed a handful and offered it to the women present , soon put a stop to that.

      • Puckish Rogue 2.3.1

        Different now, only males watch males and vice versa for females

        • Bruce

          really. are you sure , wasn’t supposed to happen then but when heaps of shit are given the power to play games and humiliate others that they feel superior to and they are the law whats going to stop them, As you’ve seen with the strip searched ladies compensation paid no charges laid. As you see here we cockroaches get what we deserve. And you all sleep soundly at nite, till one gets out and replies in kind.
          so it goes

          • Puckish Rogue

            Yes things do happen and they shouldn’t happen however that was then and this is now and all trainees are told in no uncertain terms what the standards are

            All I can say is that I, and my unit, adhere to the units and we do things the way they’re supposed.

        • Maggie

          Yet it’s recorded so those videos could easily be shared. A friend was searched and said the guards laughed and made jokes about how he couldn’t hide anything under his dick because it was so small. Lots of stories about abuses like that.

          • WeTheBleeple

            I got no sympathy for criminals, especially violent ones, They beat some poor soul or stab them and rob them, then go all twinkletoes over being searched and/or called names. These same assholes writing letters claiming they’re hard done by are still nasty pieces of shit in jail. Ignore them. Do the crime get over it and do the time. What do they want, a hug circle? Ignore the whining, it never ceases from some. That terrorist is just a little wimp now his guns are gone.

            The big problem is all the people who should not be locked up with societies violent and dishonest sociopaths. The people put there charged with possession of an offensive skin color. Sociopaths run the place and people with no ability to stop the system or get out of it get bludgeoned and twisted till they’re indistinguishable from the real crims.

            I met a kid who took magic mushrooms and thought it would be funny to get a can of coke at gunpoint. He was obviously out of his mind. Seven years. He went in a bit slow but friends with everyone. He came out after seven years of abuse/beatings hard and deranged. Violent, angry and convinced he’d been shat on by society from a great height. He had.

            A lot of people who are borderline retarded go to prison. Dumb shit, barely criminal shit. A lot of alcoholics and addicts go to prison and get no treatment. A lot of psyche cases too. Drug courts are beginning to help alleviate some of these issues.

            If we got the actual criminals instead of those profiled as maori, and the socially maladjusted, the addicts and/or mentally challenged… Many drug addicts are one-man crime waves that stops immediately the addiction is addressed. Easier said than done though…

            We could significantly drop prison numbers overnight. But would require better support services for

            A&D, mental health, community support of indigenous folk.

            It’s not that the human rights are tread on so badly at all. It’s the across the board misdiagnosis of who should be in prison in the first place.

            And it is not lost on the general population that white collar crims all sit in their own pampered facility where they get to drink tea, watch tv and play golf…

            Want to create some seriously antisocial beings with grudges, carry on just as we do.

            Want to save the actual sociopaths from themselves – stop dreaming you flakes will be their next victim.

            Not enough hard labor in prisons. Sort out putting the proper crims in them. We got rocks and hammers, we got roads that use gravel base. Have at it.

            Rehabilitation is for the real humans. Some people bought a ticket to Shitsville and deserve to stay there, and shut up, and do their time.

            • Maggie

              “It’s the across the board misdiagnosis of who should be in prison in the first place.”
              I totally agree. I can’t believe we’re still putting people who commit weed offences in jail. To me that’s seriously fucked up. Imagine if society decided caffeine was illegal? It’s a mood altering compound yet we feed it to our kids in their Happy Meals.
              Jail should be for violent/sexual offences and all others can have home detention. If they violate home d. repeatedly then they go to lock up too.

              I don’t think chain gangs breaking rocks will do much for anyone but I do think jails should focus on being as self sufficient as possible. Growing their own food, making their own bread, clothes etc. Being productive and enjoying the rewards of hard work will be really rehabilitative I think.

              • WeTheBleeple

                Yeah breaking rocks is just to signify idle time is a waste of doing time. Nothing wrong with a bit of hard work it was hard work that taught my 16 year old self (corrective training) that when I got out I was capable of doing hard work.

                A lot of people have no idea of their capability and will only find out when pushed to explore it. I’ve worked supervising three adults landscaping and I did more than all three of them. Where’s the pride in being shit?

                I was sure glad when that contract was over. A high standard of work (go hard out and keep bloody going) saw me well through life.

                Same with solitary confinement as a tool. People calling it torture. WTF? Maybe over extended periods. A week in the hole to cool down and think about your own stupidity is a good thing. We suffer from too much input, it is a sensory shock, and time out for big people, that’s all. Maybe its an aspie thing and I like solitary… 😀

                Self sufficiency in prisons should be encouraged but imagine if the prisoners were expert looking after themselves sustainably before society haha. Zombie apocalyse and only the prisoners survive, behind their fences and walls, with their solar, wells, and gardens 😀

                The rehabilitative nature of prison is completely undermined by the prisoners themselves. This is because, as stated previously, the ‘true prisoners’ are antisocial and disrupt anything positive as it threatens their stance of defiance and hate. The ‘redeemable’, addicts, mentally ill etc thus miss out on taking it seriously, surrounded by bullies who are either, ‘only joking’ or ‘going to fucking stab you’.

                And it aint like school where you get to avoid them 2/3 of the day.

                And some of the moronic bullies wear guard uniforms.

              • Puckish Rogue

                “I can’t believe we’re still putting people who commit weed offences in jail.”

                Thats a myth by the way, you don’t go to prison for just weed. It’ll be weed + assault or weed + dealing + whatever

                I can tell you out of the 55 prisoners in my unit none are there solely for possession of weed

  3. Sabine 3

    cockroaches – “Prisoners have the right to be treated with humanity, dignity and respect while in prison.”

    just call them prisoners.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      I agree. Using the language of disgust has very dark precedent.

    • Maggie 3.2

      No. I wasn’t referring to all prisoners, just the filthy KF I mentioned.

      • Sabine 3.2.1

        i don’t care what you mean, or whom you talk about, the use of the word cockroach to describe humans beings as vermin says more about you then it says about them. Besides Cockroaches are insects of some value to the environment even when some humans pretend that they are icky. Fact is these men and women are humans. Just like you and me. Might pay to remember that.

        you essay was ok, until the use of that word and then it was only rubbish.


        • Rosemary McDonald

          Sabine. It is a testament to your superior character and humanity that you see the likes of child rapists as being ‘just like you…’, and deserving of dignified treatment and respect.

          Some of the rest of us are not so highly evolved, and while we have moved on from vengeance (mostly), we think that being protected from the attentions of the greater prison population is all the humanity these vermin deserve.

          “Rubbish”….a bit harsh, no?

          • Sabine

            I am as flawed as is the next to me. Firstly. Secondly, i am not bullshitting about this. Again, my birth country has had an awesome history of decrying people they did not like as vermin. Some were jewish citizens of germany and europe , others were homosexuals, others were disabled, others were criminals, others were gypsies, others were political dissidents. And they were all rats, cockroaches, vermin. To be eradicated as they were of no value to polite society.
            Maybe we think about this before we lower ourself to the standards of those we confess to despise and that we lock up in prisons because they are a danger to society.

            Yes, the piece turned to rubbish – for me – the moment that word was used to describe criminals.

            There is a reason we now have laws that force us to treat prisoners – even the most despicable or deplorable or vile or inhumane of them – with some dignity, with some respect, and with some humanity and if it is only to make life easier for the jailers – who somehow are also locked up in there even tho they get to go home at the end of their shift.

            And i don’t think you need to be highly evolved to realize that what goes around comes around.

            The last few days we have discussed why the killing of praying men and women in the Christchurch mosque happened. Some have opted to not talk about it, read about it, name the murderer etc, essentially cutting their mind to the fact that it did indeed happen and that there is a reason for this to happen, that this terror act was committed by a white man rather then the anticipated terror attack by Muslims as we were told over and over by people in our media / politics.
            One of the points that i raised was to look at our own discourse, our own words when we speak of those we disapprove, that it might start not overseas, but here at home.
            With words like coackroaches, useless, hopeless, dole blugders, etc etc etc. we dehumanize others that we don’t approve of. Bill English disapproves of young people whom he considers ‘damn near hopeless’, the federated farmer dude who considers ‘welfare recipients useless’, Mike Hoskins who believes that ‘people should only have children they can afford’. Just to name three.

            And then we have an essay that essentially dehumanizes people the author disagrees with. With words that have been used by mass murderers in Germany in the 30- 40 s, in Rwanda 93, and many other places on this planet.

            So maybe think about this, lest someone look at you or me and decide that we too in the grand scheme of things are nothing more then vermin, to be eradicated. Cause the one always leaves to the other, as least historically speaking.

            • Rosemary McDonald

              Sabine. I respect where you’re coming from but the essay only uses the term ‘vermin’ in relation to a child rapist.

              Specifically and categorically a raper of children. And in this particular case also the murderer of the father of the child he raped.

              This is not a ‘human’ being by my standards. Which is to say that just about all the other categories of prisoner are ‘human’, but not this one… or his ilk.

        • Mark

          Sabine: ‘Cockroach’ was inappropriate only in terms of what you have said —cockroaches have some value to the environment.

          So calling Phillip Smith a cockroach was an insult to cockroaches.

          When society loses the ability to be outraged and angered and downright disgusted over the actions of the worst among us – that is what is friggin dangerous.

          Humanizing the likes of Phillip Smith is an insult to his victims. He is vermin. That is a fact.

          Loving justice, means hating injustice.

          Being kind to good people, often means being unkind to bad people.

          Calling the likes of Phillip Smith all sorts of names like cockroach is entirely appropriate in the context of the forum we have here. This is an informal conversation among ordinary citizens – its a blog where people should be able to vent and voice outrage on occasion. To know that other people think similarly to oneself over atrocities and injustice can oftentimes be quite helpful – and thereauptic.

          It would be of course quite inappropriate for the authorities to adopt such language, or for prison guards to use it, or for a judge to call a prisoner a ‘cockroach’ etc. But we are not within such a context here.

          And the article did not say prisoners in general were cockroaches, just Phillip Smith.

          • Maggie

            Thanks Mark & Rosemary. I considered responding to Sabine but decided not to. I can understand why the word is upsetting to her although I stand by my use of it.

            Sabine is right in that it was an attempt to dehumanise Phillip Smith. I need to do that because the thought that a human being would inflict such suffering on a child just does my fucking head in. My brain simple doesn’t compute so in order to deal with it I use terms like cockroach.

            • marty mars

              I think you need to work on it because dehumanising language is one part of the oppression of Māori and people of colour and you have said you are Ngāi Tahu whānui.

              Our people have suffered so much by being treated like shit, like non people.

              PEOPLE do shit, bad shit. Destroy them, forget them, ignore them, fight them – the them are people.

              • Maggie

                There’s lots of things I need to work on Marty.

                I hear what you’re saying.

              • Mark

                dehumanising language is one part of the oppression of Māori and people of colour

                True but what the fuck has that got to do with describing a cockroach who happens to Pakeha as a cockroach? For fucks sake! Are you comparing most coloured people to him?

                In most societies throughout history, Maori, English, Chinese, Nigerian, Russian etc etc….. this guy would have been given very very very short shrift.

                I do understand that he should be afforded all his rights. But in the end for our sakes not for his. We want to remain a civilized society, and that means that we should treat the very worst of us in a civilized way. But calling him a cockroach in a blogsite is not going to worry this fellow one way or the other, and even if he did know, he would probably not be worried about it in the slightest.

            • Sabine

              Let me put it this way,

              a man in his forties raped me when i was a child. I man in his forties. A man as ordinary as any man on the street. No cockroach. No ugly insect that we demonize for no reason other then it likes to live behind our fridges.

              but i was raped by a fine upstanding member of society. And society put the man above the girl as generally society does.

              And as marty said, and as i pointed out above, these terms of dehumanisation are the beginning of othering. And this is why i object to them, especially as i pointed out the history of my country in the times of my grandfathers. I would also like to point out that in the US the current resident in the white house also described to people that he disapporves of as ‘ animals’. Yet, animals don’t do what humans do.

              So you might find the use of this word ok with prisoners who commit crimes so objectionable that you can’t find a word proper.

              As i said, i like your essay, i could see the points that you were trying to make, but with dehumanizing these guys you only protected your own humanity by not owning up to the fact that every shitty thing on this planet that happens is done by Men and Women who look ordinary, like us, undistinguisable from polite society.
              the guys in prison are no cockroaches. They are humans, Menschen, albeit mean, bad, deadly, abusive, rapists, killers and often time without remorse.

              And you might also want to look at the other point i made, namely that of the jailers that have to work in Prisons. IF we want them to keep their humanity and not become unhinged themselves we must allow for dignity and humanity towards the prisoners. IF not we might just become what we fear.

              as for coackroaches, they don’t rape their children, they don’t shoot their neighbourghs but we humans we do over and over again and again and again.

              Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattodea, which also includes termites. About 30 cockroach species out of 4,600 are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known as pests.

              The cockroaches are an ancient group, dating back at least as far as the Carboniferous period, some 320 million years ago. Those early ancestors however lacked the internal ovipositors of modern roaches. Cockroaches are somewhat generalized insects without special adaptations like the sucking mouthparts of aphids and other true bugs; they have chewing mouthparts and are likely among the most primitive of living neopteran insects. They are common and hardy insects, and can tolerate a wide range of environments from Arctic cold to tropical heat. Tropical cockroaches are often much bigger than temperate species, and, contrary to popular belief, extinct cockroach relatives and ‘roachoids’ such as the Carboniferous Archimylacris and the Permian Apthoroblattina were not as large as the biggest modern species.

              Some species, such as the gregarious German cockroach, have an elaborate social structure involving common shelter, social dependence, information transfer and kin recognition. Cockroaches have appeared in human culture since classical antiquity. They are popularly depicted as dirty pests, though the great majority of species are inoffensive and live in a wide range of habitats around the world.

              • Maggie

                Othering isn’t implicitly bad; it is how we use it that determines if it’s problematic. Othering is simply the latest fad word for bias which is an essential sorting mechanism our brain uses to create preferences. When othering fails to acknowledge similarities as well as differences then it becomes negatively biased; it becomes prejudice.

                Othering finds its roots in xenophobic instincts hard-wired into our brains that gave us a survival advantage. Back when we were cavemen, those that quickly distinguished between ‘us’ and ‘them’ with a mistrustful eye were more likely to survive, since doing so helped to protect our families from physical threats and resource competition coming from foreign tribes. We still see xenophobic instincts alive and well in stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, racism, violence, and warfare.

                However, there’s an important distinction to be made here. Whilst xenophobia is always grounded in fear and hostility toward those differences, othering isn’t. Othering can help us identify differences but doesn’t automatically connote a value judgement of superiority or inferiority. It simply states ‘they’ are different than me which is a core process of self-identity. At this point our brain must decide whether those differences are desirable traits or repulsive traits and it makes that decision based on our beliefs.
                Xenophobia can’t distinguish between the person and their actions where as othering can. Othering can limit the scope of those differnces and apply a different value judgment to each one. Othering can say Muslims are different but not be hostile or fearful of those differences. If the recognition of differences is coupled with fear and hostility for no other reason than they are different than us then it’s xenophobia.

                Being open to diversity and inclusion is not the same as being blind to differences. It’s a slippery slope argument that says once you start identifying differences you’ll automatically end up holding prejudice toward those that are different whilst ignoring the fact that, on some level, everyone is different.

                My use of cockroach to refer to Phillip Smith was for my own comfort and clarity and doesn’t imply or convey that he should be treated any differently than anyone else. In fact, I make the point that we CAN’T assign different rights according to perceived worth because people will have different perceptions of crimes and those that commit them. First and foremost, we must apply basic human rights and then, as a society, determine the appropriate treatment of offenders based on their potential harm to society.

                Was it wrong of me to use that word in a public setting? Possibly, yes, because like you, others may take it out of context and assume that what I say is the sum of who I am, that by labeling his behaviour as less than human I am somehow asserting that he is less than human or that I am in denial about the horrific things people do. And, although I can see your point about using dehumanising terms, it’s worth noting that had I used the word pedophile the same assumption could be made because society holds such repugnance toward pedophilia, and rightly so. I could also argue that using dehumanising terms in public is a good thing when it promotes shame and abhorrence for an act that is universally recognised as anti-social. In the same way we are being asked to speak out against hate speech because publicly condemning bad behaviour is very effective at teaching social appropriateness. But I acknowledge that I didn’t make the distinction between him and his behaviour clear enough for everyone. Whilst you argue my metaphoric use of cockroach is dehumanising (and I agree it is), that dehumanisation doesn’t extend beyond my moral judgement of his actions.

                Moral judgments are necessary for me (and all of us) to know the difference between right and wrong. Our society requires such designations of right and wrong and applies laws that define them. In effect, these laws are othering because they identify the differences between what is appropriate and what isn’t. If, as you suggested, I just refer to him as a prisoner then I’m still othering because I’m making a distinction between groups of people. What’s more, I’m disadvantaging those prisoners who have committed less abhorrent crimes but lumping them all together as though to say that all prisoners are the same. Whilst they are all human they are not all equal in their threat to decent society, they are not all equal in their potential harm and our laws make this distinction clear. This is where each of us has a moral responsibility to employ critical thought and decide what to do with such judgments. I myself choose to focus on the act of pedophilia rather than the psychological deviance that drives the behaviour because I believe that people choose to rape children but that they don’t choose to desire to do so.

                I’m glad you called out my use of dehumanising terms because it resulted in me taking a harder look at the power and appropriateness of language.

  4. marty mars 4

    The problem with prison is detailed below. The structural racism that sends Māori to prison more than any other group is a real deadly problem and stems from racism within our general society. These are the issues that need sorting. I support prison reform. I support the law. AND this country is shitting on tangata whenua just because they can, because we let them. Stand up for the truth of who is in prison and why because mostly it is poor people of colour.

    Māori make up 50 per cent of New Zealand’s prison population, despite only accounting for 15 per cent of the population. Right now, one in every 142 Māori New Zealanders is in prison. The racial imbalance is worse for female prisoners. Māori women make up 63 per cent of the female prison population. Eighteen per cent of Māori convicted of a crime receive a prison sentence, compared with 11 per cent of Pākehā. Consider a low-level crime like drug use or possession: In 2017, 7.3 per cent of Māori convicted went to prison, compared with 2 per cent of Pākehā. Within two years of being released from prison, two thirds of Māori have been re-convicted. For Pākehā, it’s just over half. In the same time period, 47 per cent of Māori have been back to prison. For Pākehā, 36 per cent have been back.


  5. McFlock 5

    Interesting post.

    While some individuals are horrendous and have time to abuse the court system, some cell-block lawyers make good points. ISTR Arthur Taylor won one or two fair cases (might be wrong).

    It’s an important backstop. There can be good reasons for someone to be searched intimately, or never see another prisoner or visitors or newspaper, but such decisions should never be just assumed to be normal.

    Segregation should be for the protection of society, never for its vengeance or simply because of neglect.

    So yeah, it is a balance. I say let fuckwits abuse the legal safeguards with cases that on the face of it sound petulant – sooner or later one of them will have a point. Giving pedos possible access to child porn is one discussion, whether they are entitled to a wig in a society that encourages people to view baldness as an illness is another. I think Trevor Noah discussed a similar distinction between issues quite well.

    • Maggie 5.1

      He’s a funny guy. I like what he has to say.
      Interesting thing about the complaints is that it seems that those most justified to complain actually don’t. I was surprised to find that in the case of the women being internally examined only one women complained and of the thousands of men strip searched only two complained. I think the prisoners ought to be informed of their rights and have access to see those rights at any time.

      • McFlock 5.1.1

        The easiest people to abuse are the ones who expect to be abused, I guess.

        I Agree with Noah a lot, but I’d be really interested to see him in some more extended debates. His questions from the audience bits are pretty good, but a little bit like Jordan Peterson in that it’s easy to make sensible-sounding profundities when you have a receptive audience. But Noah is actually at his most interesting when he’s discussing things with people with whom he disagrees. There’s very little dodging, sliding, or other tricks to defend his position or status, it seems to be more of a genuine curiousity as to why the other person holds their position and a clear explanation of why he holds his.

        I’d probably rather see him in a 1hr chat show format than his current role, to be frank.

        • Maggie

          I’m not a fan of Peterson. I think he’s dishonest – I don’t mean he straight up lies but I think he brings his own agenda and it heavily influences the inherent truthfulness of his statements.

          I think it would be great to see Noah do more intensive debate because that’s when you see how well thought out ideas are. As you said, it’s easy for notions to sound great when they’re bite-sized and served to a receptive audience.

          • McFlock

            Yeah I agree with you about P.

            • RedLogix

              I think you lie about everything too. I’ve encountered many threads where your agenda has heavily influenced the truthfulness of your statements.

              I demand you prove you don’t have an agenda.

              • McFlock

                Awwwww, someone dissed your monologue hero.
                Go hug an islamophobe. It’ll make you feel better.

                • RedLogix

                  Just unpacking your own logic for you. You could thank me.

                  • McFlock

                    You didn’t even open the damned suitcase.
                    Firstly, nobody said P lies about “everything”.
                    Secondly, it was merely a statement of opinion with no supporting evidence, so your “many threads” line is irrelevant.

                    If you had requested some justification for that opinion, I would have referred to youthis comment of mine about an interview with P:

                    Especially with his comments on addressing domestic violence – apparently changing the police approach isn’t the way to go because the main problem is alcohol. When challenged, he ends up reducing that down to 50% of violent crime, but still doesn’t want to discuss anything other than alcohol.
                    Slippery when challenged, the closest he gets to acknowledging a point is “perhaps”.

                    The interview in question is linked to in the comment.

                    Unpack that interview with your amazingly open and accepting mind.

                    • RedLogix

                      The proposition was that because P has an ‘agenda’ therefore he is ‘untruthful’.

                      I agree P has an agenda, as I do, as you do. Is there anyway to prove someone does not have an agenda? It’s a completely unfalsifiable claim. So having unpacked it for you, laid it out on the bed and then folded it neatly, lets move onto the ‘alcohol’ question.

                      Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major public health problem in the United States. Results from a 1995 national study indicated that 23 percent of the black couples, 11.5 percent of the white couples, and 17 percent of the Hispanic couples surveyed reported an incident of male-to-female partner violence in the 12 months preceding the survey.

                      The rate of female-to-male partner violence was also high: 15 percent among white couples, 30 percent among black couples, and 21 percent among Hispanic couples. The higher prevalence of IPV among ethnic minorities, compared with whites, cannot be explained by any single factor, but seems to be related to risk factors associated with the individual, the type of relationship between partners, and factors in the environment. Alcohol plays an important part in IPV. The study found that 30 to 40 percent of the men and 27 to 34 percent of the women who perpetrated violence against their partners were drinking at the time of the event. Alcohol-related problems were associated with IPV among blacks and whites, but not among Hispanics.

                      Alcohol’s role in partner violence may be explained by people’s expectations that alcohol will have a disinhibitory effect on behavior or by alcohol’s direct physiological disinhibitory effect. It is also possible that people consciously use alcohol as an excuse for their violent behavior or that alcohol appears to be associated with violence because both heavier drinking and violence have common predictors, such as an impulsive personality.


                      I only quote this particular document because it has some data and it approaches the question from a public health perspective … which seems a reasonable ‘agenda’. I’m certain the net could throw up a hundred other studies. The point is, alcohol is associated with crime in general and IPV specifically.

                      But this does not mean alcohol is the cause of violence as the discussion section of the linked document covers off quite firmly. It’s clearly an enabling or catalytic factor, making it more likely an underlying problem will erupt into crime. Not all of the time, but often enough.

                      Interesting too how the correlation was strong in white and black communities, but not in Hispanic. (Working in Colombia and Panama my own experience is consistent with this, these people love to party but not once did I encounter anything aggressive. Loud and likely to keep you up all damned night, but rarely dangerous. Way more fun that anything similar in NZ.)

                      Given that P. wrote his PhD on this exact topic, it’s not surprising he finds alcohol especially salient to the problem. Here one of his papers on this:


                      But in a confrontational discussion like the one with Simon, the first thing that always goes is nuanced exploration of multiple causative factors. Probably not very satisfactory.

                    • McFlock

                      The proposition was that because P has an ‘agenda’ therefore he is ‘untruthful’.

                      No, the proposition was that he prioritises his agenda over the accuracy and truthfulness of his statements.

                      Even by your 30-40% source, Peterson is incorrect. He starts at 13m40s saying most DV callouts would be best addressed by dealing with alcoholism. Then he slides to 50% of all violent crime. Then when Wilson points out that how the police and courts behave have some effect, all P says is “perhaps”.

                      He neglects other causes to focus on his “50%” “huge contributor”. That is a brief exchange, but it’s a good example of his agenda taking precedence over his comment accuracy.

                    • RedLogix

                      There is no 13th Rule that says Jordan Peterson is always right, and it’s perfectly ok to challenge his details. He’s fundamentally a moderate conservative and a bit of a libertarian. When it comes to specific political issues I frequently don’t go with his take at all.

                      Still if you’re going to rely on sources like Simon Wilson you might want to consider obvious misrepresentations like this:

                      He’s said several times it’s wrong to believe the victim in rape cases.

                      Of course no-one believes that as written. The question posed was “should we always believe the victim?” . In other words should every allegation result in an automatic conviction? And P’s response to that is entirely mainstream. So right there we have subtle weaseling that tells us Wilson he has an agenda too.

                      I’ve zero problem with people disagreeing with what he actually says; but when they’re selective and intentionally misleading it get’s a tad irksome. The full interview with Wilson is here if you care to watch it, but please don’t if it’s just going to piss you off. 🙂

                    • McFlock

                      I watched it then. I already linked to it in this thread (yeah, my original comment in feb only linked to a teaser about it, my bad).

                      The comment yesterday afternoon was about P’s style of conversation when actually challenged. He slides and dodges and refuses to accept even a slight challenge to his assumptions. That interview was a recent and largely unedited example of that style.

                      As opposed to Noah, who seems much more open to having assumptions tested by conservative interviewees. He’ll argue his position, but he will listen to what the other person says.

                      Peterson has a thing about alcohol. When that affected his response to a question about how the legal system treats victims of DV, he kept steering the discussion towards alcohol and inflating its contribution to violence. When Wilson refused to be steered, Peterson simply ended the topic thread with a non-committal “perhaps”.

                      That’s not an honest conversation. If you feel I’ve misrepresented that portion of the interview, how would you describe it?

                    • RedLogix

                      In my view Wilson’s interview was reasonably good; he’d done his homework and posed intelligent questions. P’s answers were direct and to the point imo, and on a number of them W quickly conceded the point. And a number of questions were straight from the ‘so what your saying’ playbook and got batted off with little fuss.

                      However his subsequent write-up was exactly as P predicted in the interview; selective and demonstrably misleading in places.

                      When Wilson refused to be steered, Peterson simply ended the topic thread with a non-committal “perhaps”.

                      Fair enough; if you want to read that as a big red flag of dishonesty then it’s your right to view it that way.

                      My take is that given P did his PhD on the topic (including some quite bold lab experiments on the genetic basis for alcoholism), and his 20 years of clinical work, he has a considerable knowledge base on alcohol, and it was a rabbit-hole that he didn’t want to go down in the context of that particular interview.

                      One of his contentions is the modern MSM is under huge fiscal pressure and as a result is fixated on cheap soundbites and clickbait as the only profitable model left. That’s exactly the same contention that’s been made here many, many times; loss of confidence in our media is endemic. Is it so very surprising P doesn’t have much trust in them either?

                    • McFlock

                      But in the interview he kept trying to direct the discussion towards alcohol, and away from other factors. He’s the one who brought it up.

                      That’s the dishonesty. When it was finally whittled down that other factors also affected DV, he shut the topic down with “perhaps”.

                    • RedLogix

                      You could be right.

                      Still if there is anyone who is aware of how a question can have multiple dimensions and factors it has to be P. It was one short segment in a much longer interview, and given the proclivity of journalists the world over to misrepresent him, I think he just shut it down because it was going to be too much hard work to unpack it all accurately in the time available.

                      Youtube has a number of segments on his work on alcohol if you are interested, but I think I’ve made my point and leave it here.

                    • McFlock

                      I don’t care about his work on alcohol.

                      All I’m saying is that when he was asked a question about one topic, he tried to steer it to another, and when he couldn’t do that he shut it down. And this is typical of the interviews I’ve seen him do – and I’ve seen a few, now.

                      If he’s left to expound forth and extrapolate from extremely dodgy assumptions (like alcohol’s share of the DV problem) you might as well watch a lecture. He’s unchallenged. When he gets challenged, he gets churlish and shuts down any confronting lines of questioning.

                      If the topic of the role of police and the adversarial court system in encouraging or discouraging victims’ reporting crime and pursuing charges was too complicated, he should have said so. Maybe outlined some of the complications that showed Wilson was asking an impossible interview question. Lecturers do it regularly in class and tutorials if someone asks a tangential question. It shouldn’t be a new skill for him. Which is why I think his behaviour is a deliberately evasive tactic.

              • Maggie

                Considering this argument is about something I said I think I should clarify.

                Peterson plays a very deliberate and manipulative game with his audience.
                He tells his audiences they’re smart that yes, he’s bringing them knowledge, but it’s knowledge they already know and feel in their bones. He frames it as a universal wisdom using religious allegories and fairy tales which , he says, contain the truth that modern society has forgotten.

                So why is that manipulative? Because he uses cognitive priming to garner a wider acceptance of his message; a ploy most often used by cult leaders and social media influencers.
                Here’s how it works:
                He tells the audience they’re smart – compliments lower defenses.
                He tells them his message is knowledge rather that opinion or theory – distancing himself from his message makes it harder to discredit the source. Calling it knowledge primes the audiences brain to accept it more readily and using well-known stories from religion and fairy tales means the message sounds familiar, even if it isn’t.
                He tells people they already know this (right after telling they’re smart) so then people assume that because he knows they’re smart he must be right about them already knowing these “truths”.
                He plays to their confirmation bias and says that the feeling they get when they hear his message is due to understanding it as a universal truth, not the result of feeling good because it confirms their beliefs.
                He then explains away the loss of this knowledge by saying society forgot about it.

                And his audience sit like open-throated chicklets, swallowing every bit without tasting a thing.

  6. Stuart Munro. 6

    I’m a bit of a fan of rehabilitation myself. Contemporary results have not been particularly good, and I’d be inclined to argue that it is as much a human right as freedom from the myriad abuses to which institutions are susceptible.

    Hugo challenges us all:

  7. Poission 7

    Whilst it is appropriate and legal to isolate prisoners who pose a threat to the safety and security of others or to ensure their own safety we have a duty to ensure our prison population isn’t being harmed in the process.

    Th e UN report found NZ seriously wanting in regards to segregation for example the use of solitary confinement in NZ being four times that of the uk.


    • Puckish Rogue 7.1

      I’d give my vote to any party that said they’d set a high-maximum security psychiatric hospital, along the lines of Broodmoor, as prisons arn’t set up for treating these people, you could then properly treat the alkies and the drug addicted which would most likely cut down on a recidivist crimes

      But no party would have the guts to do it imho


      • mauī 7.1.1

        New Zealand already has secure psychiatric hospitals though… What you appear to me to be saying is that they lack razor wire and armed guards that somehow provide a more healing environment…

        • Puckish Rogue

          I’m not in favour of the mentally ill and the mentally ill that’ve committed crimes mixing, that’s why I’d like to see a purpose built facility in each island.

          I believe that the treatment for both have to be treated differently (because of the crimes committed) so yes guards should be present to protect the medical workers (nurses etc) and other prisoners.

          Also, depending on your definition, correction officers in NZ aren’t armed

          • McFlock

            I’m not in favour of the mentally ill and the mentally ill that’ve committed crimes mixing,

            Why not?

            Any patient who is a danger to others is already isolated, no?

            • Puckish Rogue

              Prisoners and patients mix, I’d sooner that those that’re criminals don’t associate with those that aren’t criminals

              Plus the issues, I’m assuming, for criminals are different for those that aren’t so I rather the hospital focus on the mentally ill criminals and let the hospitals we already have focus on the mentally ill

              • McFlock

                I doubt they’d be much different.

                If we’re talking criminals who would be treated in the community if they weren’t prisoners, they can most likely be treated in prison.

                But compulsory hospital-level care for mental health issues (i.e. locked wards) would probably be equivalent, and for similar reasons.

                I mean, in your model we’d have dementia-care prison hospitals.

                • Puckish Rogue

                  Maybe but first things first, a Broadmoor type model for NZ is desperately needed

                  • McFlock

                    According to what data?

                    • Puckish Rogue


                      ‘In prison these figures are significantly higher; more than nine out of 10 (91%) people had a lifetime diagnosis of a mental health or substance use disorder.’

                      ‘The high prevalence of mental illness among prisoners means that the Department of Corrections is managing more people with mental illness than any other institution in New Zealand.’

                      ‘People starting a community sentence are five times more likely than the general population to have used a mental health service in the year before or after their time spent in the justice sector. Drug and alcohol use is also much higher among offenders. Almost half of all prisoners had a substance use disorder over their lifetime, 13 times higher than the general population.’

                      Theres my data, good enough?

                    • McFlock

                      Not really, because it doesn’t identify people who can be treated in the community (or prison) vs people requiring hospital care. Weekly visits to a specialist (who can be on site if there are enough clients) vs requiring specialist staff to avoid and defuse specific psychological issues, like a full psychotic break.

                      And if someone is too ill to stand trial, or is not guilty because they were ill, they are patients and not criminals.

                      If someone needs to be in a secure psychiatric unit, it doesn’t matter why.

    • Maggie 7.2

      Yes, I wondered about that actually. Lots of people seem to be put in adseg as punishment for breaking rules but the law says it’s not supposed to be that way.

  8. left_forward 8

    There are so many heart breaking stories for Maori youth.

    The archetypical story goes like this.

    15 year old sentenced for driving offence (usually license or registration related). Fined / community service – no support given to family or help to get license (worse when accompanied by poor literacy skills). A high proportion re-offend, and again. The justice system increasingly punishes and offers ineffective support. By now the youth has been ingrained in the survivor side of the system, having learned to harden up in the dehumanised prison environment, separated from whanau and friends, they find identity only with fellow inmates, have normalised breaking the law, and learned to disrespect an unsympathetic, mainstream and institutionally racist justice system.

    When they come home, they can no longer fit with their own whanau and community.

    This often repeated tragic story could be avoided by effective whanau support given at the right time. There are many Maori and community organisations throughout the country who know what the issues are, how to address them, and are doing their very best to help. But in our neo-liberal, ‘minimise the state’’, fucked world, Government fails to support these organisations to fully develop and sustain the work they do.

    • greywarshark 8.1

      left forward
      I think that is a good comment and I can imagine that it is the general path. More help at the right time would save money for the government. But those who get into power and pollie-do, love one thing more than money, it is virtue-signalling their own superiority and achievements and having lower people to look down on which automatically raises them, or gives them a crusade to rail against the other side with.

      When you are one of the better-off your immediate surroundings are reasonable comfortable, or you have other options, you feel comfortable with your compatriots, and your aspirations, and your furniture and having time and money to satisfy your fitness or improving your assets in your spare time.

      And all those things the other people don’t have. They could if they worked though you think. So their own fault. Go to prison see, that is what happens when you don’t try to work like better-off people. They only get what they deserve. And so on.

      There has to be some backbone, some understanding of being a human and how some find niches and some don’t so that a vestige of interest in others remains.
      Alan Duff’s books seem to be trying to look at that gap and bridge it.

  9. Formerly Ross 9

    The alleged Christchurch gunman currently incarcerated in Paremoremo has formally complained about his treatment. I would’ve thought that his treatment by Corrections would be exemplary. If he is being treated unfairly, one can only hope that he receives a fair trial.


    • Puckish Rogue 9.1

      He may think he is but that doesn’t make it so, his actions mean this:

      ‘Entitlements can be withheld for various reasons including being segregated or in protective custody, health and safety, and because it’s not practicable.’

      He made the rod for his own back

  10. McFlock 10

    another example.

    Yes, lowest of the low, child sex offender. But dying a preventable and painful death because the prison staff didn’t recognise the risk.

    And not the first instance, either.

    • Maggie 10.1

      Shit, that’s pretty bad. Do you think they do it on purpose? Substandard care for guys like him? It wouldn’t surprise me and the judges comments kinda hint that he thinks so too.

      • McFlock 10.1.1

        The previous one I recall was a career burglar who died of pneumonia overnight after the guard gave him an extra blanket for the cold.

        I don’t think it would necessarily be intentional in most cases – just a function of the necessarily adversarial roles, with maybe some workload constraints, time issues, and maybe budgetary incentives (the penetrative search instead of scan/xray might be the cheaper option and easier to do on site, I suspect). But when inflicted the more loathsome individuals, such acts are easier to live with. Judginging society on how it treats its prisoners, and all that.

        • Puckish Rogue

          Another way to look at it another way is how many people die through incorrect dosages or misadventure or whatever in hospitals each year

          It happens and if the nurse followed the rules and did everything they thought they should do then so be it

          • McFlock

            Indeed, that is another way of looking at it.

            A pretty shitty way, though. “It happens” is not an approach that minimises risk or harm.

            • Muttonbird

              That was an edit. You should have read the original!

            • Puckish Rogue

              My point being that even in the places with the very best equipment and all the doctors and nurses and other specialists you could hope for this happens.

              Put it this way how many die in prison each year given that there’s approx 10 000 prisoners, I bet the numbers don’t look so bad

              • marty mars

                what an attitude ffs and you’re there working – fucken hell

                • Puckish Rogue

                  Why don’t you apply to join up if you think you can do better

                  • marty mars

                    yeah nah – I couldn’t do that job. I couldn’t do it better and I still worry about your attitude.

                    • Puckish Rogue

                      So you say you couldn’t do the job yet you don’t seem have a problem with telling me that you think I have issues because I’m realistic about what happens inside

                      Heres the thing you don’t have to think about anything that happens inside, you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to give it a second thought until you read an article in the news or a post on here

                      I do worry, I worry about walking into some guys room to find hes dead, that hes killed himself or died of natural cause or whatever it is, I worry about that

                      I worry about the guy who decides he just wants to punch a guard because hes just received some bad news and he wants to take it out on someone in authority and you know they do it from behind…or maybe they might just decide to use a weapon…maybe they decide to target me

                      I worry about coming home at night, I worry about gangs from the outside deciding to menace me or my wife to coerce me to smuggle items inside

                      I worry about the inevitable investigation that’ll happen because a prisoner makes an allegation against me

                      I worry about the pressures the job will have on my marriage (high rates of divorce in corrections)

                      Theres a helluva lot of things that I worry about because I want to do a good job and that means following and carrying out the rules to the best of my ability so you’ll excuse me if I don’t worry too much about things that’re out of my hands, like what a nurse may or may not have done

                    • marty mars

                      Sounds tough all right. I certainly wish you all the best.

                  • Maggie

                    I want to thank you for choosing to do such a difficult job.

                    Thank you for wanting to do your job well. I understand how tough that is and I understand why you need to distance yourself from some aspects. It’s easy to judge online when we don’t have context.

                    These discussions are important so that we keep our eyes open. I’m grateful to Marty for that very reason. He reminds us, frequently, not to sleep too easy and these talks do the same thing. At the end of the day it should always be about solutions, not judgment, I hope you know that.

                    • marty mars

                      + 1 yep – I wish no one had to do it and it is good that people do do it.

                      Thanks for trying to help and for looking after these prisoners.

                      Sorry puck for my judgments – not needed.

                      I still worry about everyone involved in corrections.

                      Stay safe and kia kaha.

              • McFlock

                Your “bets” don’t amount to a hill of beans.

          • Maggie

            She clearly didn’t. He was vomiting blood, she took his stats and did nothing. Anyone vomiting blood needs emergency help. The thing is, so much of this we never hear about because the prisoners assume no one cares.

            People in prison rely on the guards for everything. It’s not like they can go see a different doctor if they think the one inside is shit. Because they have reduced options we have a duty of care to ensure their needs are met.

            • McFlock


              It’s not like misdiagnosing a headache. There are no mild causes of blood in vomit.

          • Poission

            Another way to look at it another way is how many people die through incorrect dosages or misadventure or whatever in hospitals each year

            in the US around 250000


            here around 30 to 40 % of the prison population equivalent.

            • greywarshark

              I think that looking at large and diverse populated states like the USA is not helpful when we are thinking about NZ. Perhaps the UK which once had a NHS which apparently was one of the things that were the crux for Brexit – an underfunded, increasingly privatised, hospital system. Let’s keep an eye on them since we import so many of their middle managers to run our agencies instead of looking at our own people. Lesson – keep a good eye on home or when you look back to your feet you’ll be like the cows marooned after the Kaikoura earthquake. Help was sent to them.

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