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Prison Phone Failure A Constitutional Insult

Prison Phone Failure A Constitutional Insult

Concerns about inmates using cellphones and prison telephones to organise crimes and intimidate witnesses from within prison are nothing new. That we get the same stories recycling every few months, is a result of a conscious Government choice to ignore law passed by Parliament, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"In 1999, after a prison-organised spate of crimes, the National Government - with Labour support - passed the phone-tapping legislation in urgency. The Government has never provided the funds to bring the law into effect," Mr Franks said.

"Here is a classic case of a Government deciding that enforcing the law has no priority, meanwhile pretending to be tough on crime by passing lots of new laws. This is part of a pattern. Recently, we've seen the Government declining to enforce laws about guards having sex with inmates, and admitting that drugs are rife in prisons.

"Just as its response to savage dogs has been to promise new law, instead of providing the determination and the police to enforce perfectly adequate existing law, we see in Parliament today a massive Corrections Bill which is unlikely to make prison discipline any more real than it has been in the past.

"We are used to the Labour Government using Bills as political slogans. Even a cynical population, however, must have some alarm about the constitutional propriety of a government failing to provide any resources to enforce a law - passed under urgency four years ago - and never challenged as unnecessary. Where was the supposedly `tough on crime' United Future Party when they were deciding to spend $28 million on the Family Commission, and not the $800,000 a year to stop phone crime from prisons," Mr Franks said.

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