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Privilege Case Can't Deal With The Real Scandals

Friday 1 Mar 2002

The breach of privilege case against Corrections Minister Matt Robson can't deal with the real scandals in payments to prisoners, says ACT's Justice spokesman Stephen Franks.

"The real scandal is that they received an average of nearly $20,000 each - though I understand none was in prison for a day longer than the sentence given them by their Judges.

"The Minister may have wanted to deflect political heat on to his officials by saying he wasn't aware of the payments to prisoners. That is something National will rightly pursue in the privileges claim, but New Zealanders should be much more concerned that this happens because we do not have truth in sentencing.

"In other words they are being paid at rates per day they could never earn, simply for not getting the privilege of early release.

"This is like making the TAB pay disappointment compensation to those who bet on the wrong horse.

"If compensation is payable, early release is obviously a right, not a privilege. When early release and parole are a right, every Judge pronouncing sentence knows the sentence will never be served. Only the victim doesn't know that. Why do we force Judges into this deception?

"The other outrage is the absence of proper powers to ensure that restitution is made. The privilege enquiry can't deal with that.

"When I asked the Minister of Corrections why the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill did not have wide powers to make reparation performance and staying in a job and to make meeting your obligations to family and others normal conditions for the privilege of early release, he said he didn't know and I should ask Phil Goff.

"Now that the media are showing some interest he is trying to give the impression that all this is just a set of administrative bungles and the fault of his officials.

"It is a natural and inevitable result of an entire philosophy focused on the so-called "criminogenic needs" of criminals instead of the needs of victims and the community," Stephen Franks said.


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