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Swain Amendments Suspicious

Swain Amendments Suspicious

Tuesday 18 May 2004 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Crime & Justice

ACT New Zealand Justice and Corrections Spokesman Stephen Franks today opposed Corrections Minister Paul Swain's last-minute insertion in the Corrections Bill of a provision imposing UN rules across our prisons.

"Dumping 44 pages of complex amendments, without any exposure or chance for submissions, when the Bill has been sitting since last year raises suspicion of embarrassment about deals demanded by the Greens to get it through since United Future withdrew support - suspicion which is borne out by provisions hidden in the fine print," Mr Franks said.

"The new provision referring to UN rules essentially ends any prospect of the Withers Petition reforms coming through. Ninety two percent voted for hard labour. UN rules prohibit it - they go further, and say that a prison can't be made any more unpleasant than is strictly necessary to maintain discipline.

"In other words, NZ is locking itself into the theory that prison is the punishment, however soft and comfy, whereas most of us want prisoners to go to prison for punishment.

"Other changes lurking in the SOP include defining the prisoner's family to include persons to whom the prisoner `has a significant psychological attachment'. It's unclear whether this stops at gang mates. Remember that there were prisoners who felt a significant psychological attachment to President Reagan, John Lennon and Jody Foster.

"The last minute amendments are littered with new complications and obstacles to prisoner searches and discipline. For example, a rubdown search requires consent of a manager, and any physical force used in dealing with a prisoner must be followed by a doctor's examination.

"The Bill, supposed to update 40 year-old law, now overlays even older UN rules. It complicates, rather than simplifies, prison management - despite tangling prisons in red tape, it reduces the protection of independent review by visiting Justices.

"A so-called Justice can now be anyone the prison service appoints - provided they hold a law degree. This insult to the dignity of the office of Judge is a cynical move to replace independent oversight with tame friends of management. Most hostile attention has been to the doctrinaire cancellation of the only private prison management contract. There are far stronger reason to oppose this Bill," Mr Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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