Why does Criminal Justice have to be so politicised?

Written By: - Date published: 9:49 am, February 25th, 2018 - 67 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, crime, domestic violence, Judith Collins, labour, national, Politics, prisons, same old national - Tags:

Yesterday I posted on Andrew Little wanting a mature discussion about our criminal justice system and where it is heading.  The hope was that there would be debate and political consensus for change, because clearly the current system is not working.

But judging from the events of the past 24 hours it appears that the chance of a mature discussion are essentially nil.

From Nick Truebridge at Stuff:

The Labour Party campaigned on the plan to reduce the prison muster by 30 per cent in the coming 15 years, something Little admitted was “ambitious”.

As of September, there were 3000 prisoners on remand, compared with 1800 in 2012.

Collins, now a National Party leadership hopeful, says the “main driver” behind tightening bail laws was to protect victims of family violence.

“Where there’s family violence alleged, and there’s significant reason for the courts to be able to say somebody should not get bail, that’s been one of the issues we try and address, which is basically violent offenders going straight back into the home and the victims . . . being pushed or pressured into withdrawing their statement,” Collins said.

“Before he goes around changing laws, bail laws in particular, around violent offending, he needs to actually consider why they were put [there] in the first place.

“It’s actually all around the victims of family violence . . . that was the main driver of it.”

The country’s prisons are under immense pressure – just 300 beds are available to accommodate the growing prison population.

National’s corrections spokesman Simon O’Connor said the jailhouse burden was becoming critical as the prison population edges closer to 11,000.

The Labour-led Government had been vocal in its opposition to building a new billion dollar, 3000-capacity Waikeria Prison near Otorohanga, which National had planned, O’Connor said.

Although there is always a concern that pressure will be put on the victims of domestic violence the solution does not have to result in incarceration.  Strict bail conditions such as non association requirements and residential conditions can deal with these problems although I have seen too many poor people who cannot offer an alternative address being denied bail.  And more Judicial resources so that cases could be dealt with in a more timely manner would not go astray.

And remember these are people who have not been convicted of the offence and should be subject to the  presumption of innocence.

National needs to explain how it could impose law changes there were clearly going to increase the prison population but not plan ahead.  The prisons are over 97% full.  There have been signs for years that New Zealand was approaching a crisis.  They should have seen this coming and planned in advance.  Unless the intent was to engage in double bunking and other inhumane practices or just do nothing.

It is interesting that Collins has decided to go public with her comments.  I wonder what National’s current Corrections spokesperson thinks?

67 comments on “Why does Criminal Justice have to be so politicised?”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    It’s politicised because money.

    What can we take from Judith Collins’ statements? Oravida has plans to move into the private prison business?

  2. adam 2

    We had three decades of cheap and nasty propaganda around crime.

    It has distorted the whole picture. I think we are some time from a mature conversation, especially when the “Hang them” crows, are still very much a vocal minority.

    Personally I’d like to see the whole debate coupled with a discussion on restorative justice.

    • Stuart Munro 2.1

      It is likely less propaganda than vulnerability. As the income divide grows and fewer people are making it, the impact of crime is greater. If you’re barely keeping your head above water financially it’s harder to be philosophical about crimes that affect you. It’s a recipe for a punitive, intolerant culture.

      • adam 2.1.1

        I’d also say an argument style which does not add to a debate, but goes with one upmanship does not help either. Or the point scoring culture – national and the right have been huge fans of this type of argument. Crime is a area of debate where people can do that with impunity.

        Journalist, writing simple crime stories – so they don’t have to leave the office.

        I’d suggest the picture is complex and includes vulnerability, but the most vulnerable have a tendency not to vote these days.

  3. Ad 3

    Mickey the anecdata of every nut job is going to be tough.

    Little will need awesome graphs showing crime trendlines consistently down and its so out of whack with inmates being up.

    Police union and lawyers and judiciary will be critical opinion leaders for Little.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      Little could show some of the data from Finland’s (yes, them again) penal reforms (pdf).

      Especially in regard to recidivism.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        Agree also Netherlands.

        Except our penal culture is exceedingly Australian-British.

        And a historically very strong state with military and near-military management of Maori people and land won’t be undone.

        Ngawha Springs ppp jail was a big Northland Maori debate on this.

    • patricia bremner 3.2

      The Law Society and the Judiciary support Andrew in this.

    • McFlock 3.3

      All the nats need is one kid getting beaten by a parent on bail, and all the charts and proof showing that violent crime against kids is down will be replaced by a photo.

      Brutal, but those are the people on the other side of the debate. Rationality always fights with one hand tied behind its back when it’s facing greed.

  4. Bill 4

    Why this hang-up around “political consensus”?

    Is the government of the day there to broadly represent those who voted for it, while taking into account, to a greater or lesser degree, those who didn’t?

    Or, is the government of the day there to pander to a culture of inertia and keep powerful sectors of society happy in spite of people voting with a hope for representation?

    If the government reckons the criminal justice system ought to be overhauled or reformed, then it should get on with it. If the government also wants a mature conversation, then it can initiate it.

    If National don’t want to be a part of that conversation, then fine. If the government backs off from having a conversation because National don’t want one, then wtf’s that about?

    • Craig H 4.1

      People celebrate National abolishing hanging for murder in 1961, but often don’t know that Labour originally did that in 1941 and National reintroduced it in 1950.

      From that experience, I think having some sort of consensus is helpful for making changes stick.

  5. red-blooded 5

    Wasn’t it Bill English who called prisons a moral and economic (maybe “fiscal”?) failure?

    Great discussion today on RNZ about prison issues. Dr Jarrod Gilbert liken’s Little’s intentions to the decision to cease using the death penalty. Some good comparisons with other countries, too, especially The Netherlands.

  6. Antoine 6

    MS why complain about the debate being politicised when you are doing your best to politicise it?

    A.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      The whole subject has been politically fucked up for ever in this country. Observing that fact, recognising the mass delusions we’ve told ourselves for decades, is the first step to undoing all the harm that has already been done.

      Good to see that implicitly you’re on board with getting the politics out of justice.

      • Antoine 6.1.1

        TBH I’m kinda enjoying not worrying about what the National Party is thinking or doing, or where the polls are at, for a change.

        It’s the Labour-led government’s turn to lead – let National stew in the corner.

        A.

        • Antoine 6.1.1.1

          But as long as you have a tough-on-crime party _in_ your governing coalition (NZ 1st), politics will never be far from the scene.

          You needn’t think Winston is in any hurry for reductions in sentencing. Anathema to his support base.

          A.

          • RedLogix 6.1.1.1.1

            Having NZ1 in the mix acting as the ‘conservative policeman’ in the process can work to the advantage of a reform process. Done thoughtfully this can be a reassuring to people anxious about the prospect of radical change.

            Look back at our own history and some of the biggest sea changes have been achieved by ‘conservative’ parties who were able to push it through with minimal ‘scaring of the horses’. eg MMP.

    • Enough is Enough 6.2

      That’s the great irony of this isn’t it.

    • mickysavage 6.3

      I’m keen for there to be a real debate about the issue. These posts are to provide a chance for standarnistas to discuss the issues. And hopefully educate each other.

      • Antoine 6.3.1

        You can post whatever you like, I’m just expressing an opinion that the headline is a bit disingenuous

        • Incognito 6.3.1.1

          You voice an opinion yet you don’t contribute to the debate …

          • Antoine 6.3.1.1.1

            Hey, I was all over the last thread!

            • Incognito 6.3.1.1.1.1

              Of course you were and I take back my comment and apologise unreservedly.

              • Antoine

                I was the lock em up and take away the key guy

                • Incognito

                  I know, Antoine, my memory hasn’t left me yet and I’m glad you’re making an effort to make meaningful contributions to the debates here on TS. This country needs people who are genuinely interested in the wellbeing of all members of society.

  7. patricia bremner 7

    This is a divisive issue, and it needs a pragmatic thoughtful being like Andrew to lead.

  8. RedBaronCv 8

    Despite Judith pushing the DV button – a subject that she showed little interest in while she was in government – to the point of removing any police collection of statistics on the subject – she now knows that this is the problem????

    Mostly the cops use that cop out known as a “police safety order” which is anything but to ensure that these crimes don’t even get into the system

  9. Why does Criminal Justice have to be so politicised?

    Because it’s such a free gift for right-wing politicians. Most people don’t like crims, so they make an excellent rabble-rousing piñata that your speeches can whack with a rhetorical stick, and there’s the awesome secondary opportunity to play on people’s fears and present yourself as the only one who’ll protect them. Giving Collins an opportunity like that and asking her not to take it is like having a lolly scramble and asking the kids not to pick up the lollies. Little’s just going to have to suck this one up – doing the right thing is going to provide various propaganda opportunities to the right and they’re going to take them.

  10. Incognito 10

    To answer the question posed in the title of this Post: because it fits (with) & feeds the politics of fear.

    This country will continue with the see-saw and swinging of the (political) pendulum until we have true inclusive, non-partisan, and consensus-building politics that’s is not only condoned (!) by the electorate but actively supported and expected & demanded, in fact.

    The current system gives the political parties and (career) politicians their raison d’être, their purpose, and it’s thus entirely self-serving. Isn’t it interesting that a country does not completely fall over while and because political parties are trying to negotiate a new government? Arguably, we don’t need politicians; it’s a carefully kept secret and myth.

    Take it away, folks.

  11. Strict bail conditions such as non association requirements and residential conditions can deal with these problems…

    Non-association requirements need to be backed by tracking devices upon all people involved. If it’s just on the alleged perp then the perp can put themselves into a position where the victim can’t avoid them and there’s going to be nobody around to help. Tracking both would warn both that they’re getting to close and alert the police so that they can position themselves to intervene if necessary.

    And more Judicial resources so that cases could be dealt with in a more timely manner would not go astray.

    I think that may be the most important.

    Unless the intent was to engage in double bunking and other inhumane practices or just do nothing.

    It’s National – they’d do nothing, blame the convicts and cut taxes for rich people.

    • JohnSelway 11.1

      Ummm but what if the non-association order is with a person or persons who haven’t committed a crime/been charged with a crime. You wanna put a tracking device on them?

      If someone had a non-association order with me and I hadn’t done anything wrong I would say fuck you to a tracking device

      • Ummm but what if the non-association order is with a person or persons who haven’t committed a crime/been charged with a crime.

        That’s usually the case of Restraining Orders.

        The courts still dish them out though. My suggestion is to make them enforceable which, ATM, they can’t be.

        Oh, and the obvious, restraining orders don’t get put on people who are innocent.

  12. Siobhan 12

    Given that he still seems to have some influence in the Labour Party and is the so called ‘Voice of the Left”, maybe now would be a good time to ask Mike Williams to elaborate on his support for Collins…

    “If I had a vote I’d support Judith Collins who I’ve met on several occasions and who I believe is the best Corrections Minister we’ve had in a long time.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503459&objectid=11996076

    • patricia bremner 12.1

      This man has not leaned left in ages. He was trotted out to give a “Left” view…..
      What a total sham.

    • From all that I’ve heard mike Williams is about as Left wing as Hooton, DPF and John Key.

    • mac1 12.3

      Mike Williams is CEO of the Howard League and a long time campaigner for prisoners’ rights and more humane treatment.

      I suspect he knows a bit more than some about this and is probably a little more qualified to give a nod of recognition in this field.

      Williams is a Hawkes Bay man and will be reported in that region. I don’t know if he is being employed as a a voice from the left, or as a commentator from that region who has insight into Wellington politics as president of the Labour Party during the time of the Clark government, and into prison reform, business and market research.

      Williams did not give Collins stellar recognition either. One needs more than being a good Corrections Minister. But obviously someone in the department was able to give her good and acceptable advice.

      No great deal, and unworthy of the vitriol that Mike Williams seems to attract. At least what I have written is better than “from all that I’ve heard” as a basis for reasonable commentary.

      • patricia bremner 12.3.1

        If he had been talking about his work that would have been fine, but he often appeared on tv in panels as representing the Left. He is very far from “Left”.

        • mac1 12.3.1.1

          @Patricia Bremner. The quote from Siobhan above was ‘about his work’ as CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform in commenting on Collins’ performance as Corrections Minister. It was to that to which I primarily responded.

          In that work he advocates for literacy and car driving skills for prisoners, for example.

          Read the following article and tell me what is not Labour. Or are we into ideological debate as to how Left is all of Labour?

          http://www.noted.co.nz/currently/politics/mike-williams-what-2018-has-in-store-for-jacinda-ardern/

          Just because he gives the odd nod of recognition to National or ACT politicians when they act wisely does not mean he is in their thrall.

          It might just possibly mean that sometimes politicians of other stripes can also be right.

          When, as another new Standard post discusses, the National party joins MMP by splitting into its conservative and liberal wings, then we will be looking more closely at party and individual’s policy beliefs and political stances on issues.

          The approach by Mike Williams in discovering and acknowledging these similarities and commonalities will be an important political skill. Longterm coalition government depends on this, not on shallow name-calling and too easy typification.

          He argues that Labour under leader Ardern has done this with both the Greens and NZ First, allowing them to take initiatives in the regions and in Transport and environmental matters, which has the added advantage of allowing them to assert their party strengths and so not wither in government as some fear.

      • tracey 12.3.2

        Is he Alex Swenys new best friend too?

  13. AB 13

    It’s politicised because the explanations for criminality and the response to it goes right to the heart of the difference between left and right wing world-views.
    Put crudely, the RW view is that criminal behaviour is a personal failing, a bad choice and that individuals have the free will to change themselves. If they fail to do so the rational response is to punish them and minimise the damage they can do to us until they change their ways. The LW takes a more nuanced view of free will by considering the effect of social and economic factors, who has power and who does not, etc. This view leads towards solutions that tend to be collective and preventative.

    It is essential to the RW worldview that the economic success of any individual is deserved and just. This is the “just world” fallacy. On top of that supposed justice, a whole superstructure of private property rights and opposition to taxation can be built. The corollary is that those who fail and get into difficulties must also be getting what they deserve. So don’t expect this topic to ever not be political. If the RW abandon punitive responses to crime, they are admitting that people are not entirely personally responsible for what happens to them, and that is a dagger to the heart of the just world fallacy.

  14. funstigator 14

    What is inhumane about double bunking MS?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 14.1

      Rape.

      Surely you remember Judith Collins’ terribly funny joke about it.

      “I hope they go to jail for a long time – with a cell mate”, she said in 2011.

      National Party values, eh.

  15. Tanz 15

    So, it’s okay to have violent criminals on our streets, creating more victims, just so that Labour can look soft on crims. What about the victims? What about the parents and families of victims, and what about a safe community for all? How would you feel if it was your child/family member/spouse beaten up/maimed etc? Top of that, mandate not. I have written to WP and NZ First, asking him to oppose this madness (he is a conseravtive a heart). Fingers crossed.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1

      Don’t pretend to give a shit about victims: you support policies that create more crime. Yes, you do.

    • Incognito 15.2

      I hate to bring it to you but if your letters to “WP and NZ First” are in the same style as your comments here and contain the same lies, logical fallacies, and spelling mistakes then I don’t expect them to have much of the effect you desire. Please let us know when you receive a reply from “WP and NZ First”.

    • tracey 15.3

      Where were you and the Right when the Delegat travesty unfolded in Dunedin? Looking for a beneficiary to vilify?

  16. …just so that Labour can look soft on crims.

    Those devious Labour bastards! Clearly they’ve figured out that the voters love governments that look soft on crims, and are willing to sacrifice public safety so they can harvest all those lovely, lovely soft-on-crims votes!

    Seriously, your blather would be embarrassing from a spam-bot – if you’re not one, that’s even worse.

    • In Vino 16.1

      Tanz’s consistently stupid blathering makes me suspect some kind of setup… Never any sign of having learned anything.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 16.1.1

        Tanz voted for NZF without even reading their policies.

      • Anne 16.1.2

        Tanz’s consistently stupid blathering makes me suspect some kind of setup…

        Yep. Tanz has made various claims about ‘herself’. Claimed she was female. Claimed she owned a farm or two or three. Claimed she had fast fancy cars and so on. Think she also claimed she was once Labour. Claimed she has various degrees. 😡

        Wonder if any of it is true.

        • In Vino 16.1.2.1

          Exactly. She is used every so often to excite responses of primitive nature, just for disruption. Not a more developed troll like certain others..

  17. R.P. Mcmurphy 17

    It is no longer justice nor a system. it has become an industry with the bottom line the primary consideration and cannabis as the cash cow!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 17.1

      From the debate over the last few days, it looks far more like cannabis-related offences are being tagged onto other more serious crimes.

      Being convicted of burglary and possession of cannabis (or like as not, P), you’ll be sent down for the burglary but the drug possession still goes on the file.

      Unless you’re talking about the vast amounts of cash available to organised crime via the sale of drugs, that is.

  18. Tamati Tautuhi 18

    The prohibition of drugs and a large % of the NZ population with mental health issues, our prisons are the new neoliberal physchiatric hospitals with the police and the prison wardens acting as the Doctors and Nurses.

    Lets face facts if people end up in prison something is wrong with the wiring in the brain or am I wrong ?

  19. Tanz 19

    Very excitable people here. Funny really. So, no one cares about the victims it seems, just the violent thugs. Sad!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 19.1

      Your crocodile tears for the victims wouldn’t be so hypocritical if you stopped supporting policies that increase the crime rate.

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