Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

Shannon Leonard's Death In Mt Eden Prison

Speech in parliament by Green MP Nandor Tanczos

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act states that:

'Everyone has the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment' and that 'Everyone deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person'.

On Sunday I spoke at a public meeting called to discuss the death of Shannon Leonard in Mt Eden prison. He had been kept in filthy and inhumane conditions that led to his suicide. He was incarcerated in a tiny cell 7' by 6' with just a plastic bucket to defecate into. He was forced to spend 18 hours a day alone in this dungeon.

The meeting was filled with people from across the political divide - Marie Hasler was there from the National Party, there were ex-New Zealand First people, there were lawyers, criminologists, people who work in prisons, people who had been in prison. All of us were there because we cared that another young man had taken his own life in Mt Eden prison.

I reflected at the time that just over one year ago I had been in the audience at a meeting called to discuss the last death by suicide of a young man in Mt Eden. I had sat in the same methodist church, listening to some of the same speakers, talking about the same issues - concern about the imprisonment of young people in adult facilities, concern about the ultimately lethal lack of care given to that young man, a demand that Mt Eden should close.

Now, just over a year later, nothing has changed.

There are some in this house, in the media and in the public who think that we should not care. The day after Shannon died I read a front page story on an escape from the Mt Eden remand centre. Shannon Leonard's death warranted one brief passing mention in the last paragraph of the same article.

I do not agree. I reject the idea that we can build a peaceful society by degrading our own humanity.

But those who say that we should be thinking more about the victims of crime are correct. Because the problem is not Mt Eden. That filthy place is just an extreme example. The problem is that our whole justice system is flawed.

We must develop a truly victim centred justice system. I applaud the Supplementary Order Paper that the Minister of Justice Phil Goff is putting to the Victims Rights bill. But I have to say that it is not enough. We must have a system that recognises that when a crime is committed, the number one problem is that someone has been hurt, and the number one priority is to heal the harm caused by crime.

And unlike some in this house who try to outdo each other in demonstrating their own lack of understanding, victims of crime are largely unmoved by a need for revenge. Their main priority is to make sure it doesn't happen again to someone else.

If we really care about victims let us look at how we can reduce offending and reoffending rather than how we can sate our appetite for punishment. How we can get offenders to take responsibility for what they have done and take steps to put things right.

Locking young people in cages is not likely to produce that result. What it does produce is people more angry, more hostile and more equipped to commit crime and get away with it.

As a society we have strange priorities. We provide little money for helping people avoid a life of crime, by providing opportunities in education, meaningful work and community development. Yet we seem to have an open chequebook for locking people up after they have done wrong.

We must change. Let us begin by closing that house of shame, Mt Eden gaol.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Werewolf: What Does Winston Peters Want His Legacy To Be?

A lot of people in New Zealand seem to resent Winston Peters and the power that he appears to have. “Appears” being the operative word. In reality, Peters will have power only up to the point that he uses it.

By next week, he’ll have become just another junior player in an MMP governing arrangement, battling to hold onto the gains he was promised. More>>

 

Rising Toll: Road Safety Needs To Be A Higher Priority

Official advice released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows that the previous National Government dismissed an option to make road safety its most important transport priority after being told the road toll was rising. More>>

ALSO:

Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>

ALSO:

Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>

ALSO:

Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>

ALSO:

Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>

ALSO:

Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>

ALSO:

Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election