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Cross-party accord needed on justice

9 March 2006

Cross-party accord needed on justice

A cross-party accord is the only way to fix the justice system, Green Justice Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.

"Most New Zealanders are sick of politicians making hay from people's suffering, it seems to me. I am asking for all political parties to start looking at how we can work together to reduce crime."

Mr Tanczos is attempting to set up a meeting, closed to the media, of justice spokespeople from all political parties at Parliament to try to reach accord on prison policies.

"I am writing to all political parties to see if we can sit down and find points of agreement. Maybe I will only meet derision but the issue is too important not to try," he says. "Other countries have managed to achieve a mature and reasoned debate on reducing crime. I don't see why we should be incapable of it.

"The problems go back to well before this government. Under both National and Labour there has been a preoccupation with locking people in prison with no regard for what we do with them while they are there. The media exacerbates this with ill-informed reporting, especially during election campaigns. Prisons have been used as a political football but it is time to start looking for a consensus on the best outcomes for victims and society.

"I welcome recent coverage because it has been of unprecedented depth, including the coverage of serious problems like chronic prison over-crowding and a lack of rehabilitation, but column inches are not going to solve these issues.

"We have to develop the political will to go beyond shouting at each other and start listening to each other."

Mr Tanczos says he has no intention of just pushing Green policies onto other parties, but was hoping to see an open-minded discussion about what was happening and not happening in New Zealand prisons and possible ways forward.

"It is a big ask - but there may be practical steps we can agree on to reduce crime," he said. "There may be programmes in other countries and perhaps even in New Zealand that have already proved successful. If we can agree on new initiatives it will mean changes can be put through Parliament quickly that could reduce the huge amount of money we spend on prisons, and most importantly reduce the number of victims," Mr Tanczos says.

ENDS

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