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Deprive Prisoners of Liberty but Not Dignity

Wednesday 9 February, 2005

Deprive Prisoners of Liberty but Not Dignity

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand appeared today before the Justice and Electoral Select Committee to make an oral submission on the Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims Bill.

In the submission Caritas opposed the Bill, saying that victims of crime should be better supported and not only when a prisoner is mistreated.

Caritas believes that the Bill will reduce the ability of prisoners to hold the State accountable for their treatment in prisons. Abuse of prisoners by the State should not be happening and victims of crime should be given adequate support to deal with the effects of the crime. This should not be viewed solely in terms of monetary compensation.

Advocacy Officer, Lisa Beech says, “We have been shocked to learn the extent of prison abuse and we would like to know what the government is doing to bring this situation under control.”

The State is responsible for ensuring prisoners in New Zealand jails are treated with humanity and treating prisoners violently will result in a more violent society. A person can be deprived of liberty, but not of their dignity.

For many years the Catholic Church has made a considerable commitment to providing chaplaincy and support for people in prisons. This is based on our belief that prisons should provide opportunities for people to turn their lives around.

Beech said Caritas supported restorative justice, rather than vengeance and retribution and this is not a soft option. “True reconciliation requires genuine repentance on the part of the offender and forgiveness from the victim is very difficult and cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of hatred.”

Beech went on to say, “It is hoped the Select Committee will reconsider this Bill and take steps to end prisoner abuse in New Zealand prisons together with finding alternative mechanisms to support victims of crime.

“If the State does not mistreat prisoners there will be no grounds for compensation being awarded to prisoners.”

ENDS

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