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Time For Rational Discussion About Prisons


Time for Rational Discussion about Prisons

"It's time for the New Zealand public to be guided by political and public leaders through a rational debate about the value of prisons and imprisonment". That's the view of Kim Workman, Project Leader for the Rethinking Crime and Punishment debate.

"Two days into 2008, and already there are emotive press releases being released, and public officials being misquoted. It lends weight to Ombudsman Mel Smith's concern that rational debate was almost impossible. We're wasting valuable media time debating along the lines of "hard" vs "soft", "liberal" vs. "conservative." . What we need is to dig underneath the trivia that makes headlines news, and start asking serious questions."

"In the New Zealand Herald of 12th December, Assistant General Manager Bryan McMurray made a valid point - that the Court imposes the punishment. Every Prison Officer is told " offenders go to prison as punishment, not for punishment". It is not for Prison staff to impose additional punishment, outside the provisions of the Corrections Acts and Regulations - although some might try."

"There are over three thousand volunteers who regularly visit prisoners in prison –none of them condone the crimes offenders have committed. Ask them whether or not prisoners are being punished. Around half of the relationships prisoners are in at the time of sentencing do not survive the prison term. . Their children are six to seven times more likely to end up in prison, than the child of a non-prisoner. Their children are three times more likely to have mental health issues than the children of non-prisoners. The absence of the breadwinner in many of the families, creates serious family and community dysfunction."

"Ask the prisoner who is being targeted by a predator because he or she is young and attractive. Or the prisoner who has to watch their back for fear of assault. Or being locked in your cell from 5.0pm until 8.0am every day. They will tell you what being in prison is like."

"We would be better off looking at the real issues. For example, how much effort is being put into life skills training, remedial reading, basic education, work and vocational training. How much effort is going into providing prisoners with cultural, educational and spiritual experiences, that encourage prisoners to becoming contributing members of the community on release?"

"We would all prefer that prisoners were actively engaged, rather than watching TV. But in the absence of constructive activity, the passive act of watching TV is better than providing a prisoner with
nothing.

"At the least, we should put to one side the notion that harsher sentences will act as a deterrent. Recent research confirms what all penologists have known for years. Harsh sanctions do not reduce reoffending - the harsh truth is that it the evidence points to the contrary."

ENDS

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