Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Mandela Day: Howard League calls on MPs to visit prisons

Today (18 July) is Nelson Mandela International Day when the United Nations highlights the importance of humane conditions of imprisonment. In New Zealand our prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. At 214 prisoners per 100,000 people, we have the fifth highest incarceration rate in the OECD,[1] behind the US, Turkey, Israel and Chile. Putting aside the debate on whether or not we should put people in prison, overcrowding and insufficient staff negatively impact on all aspects of prison life: limiting access to programmes and health services, resulting in high hours of cell confinement, and hindering the ability to ring family and friends. Understanding this is vital for all New Zealanders but particularly so for Parliamentarians. Consequently, the Howard League is encouraging all MPs to visit a prison to support the kaupapa of Nelson Mandela Day.

"The extreme conditions that prisoners experience are not just one-off occasions" Christine McCarthy, President, Wellington Howard League said. "It's difficult for most of us to really understand what it would be like to have no control over every aspect of your life. Prison processes are not built to fit around the humanity of the people in prisons. I mean many prisoners in New Zealand are regularly having dinner - and being locked up for the night - at 3.30pm when everyone else in the country is having afternoon tea. One prisoner who wrote to us puts the "pleasure" of prison dining really into perspective: "77 pieces of bread in a week!""

Current President of Canterbury Howard League and former prisoner, Cos Jeffery reflecting on his time in prison said: "The one enduring memory that still bugs me is the prevalence of violence that exists in New Zealand prisons. I'm not at all convinced it has changed much at all. A sense of helpless frustration was at the root of most of the violence that I experienced and observed inside. Double bunking - two prisoners to a cell combined with 23 hour lockdowns most weekends - has to test even the most mild mannered person."

Alan Bell, President, Otago Howard League agrees: "Most people wouldn't want to spend up to 23 hours a day locked in a small room with their spouse, their chosen life-partner, let alone a complete stranger who may have complex mental health issues, a history of violence, or gang affiliations."

There is currently much debate about the criminal justice system. It has been called "broken" by the Minister of Justice, and the Criminal Justice advisory group's first report He Waka Roimata paints an equally sad picture which no one appears to have disagreed with. There seems to be no dispute regarding the need for change. Nelson Mandela Day is an important reminder that we need to better understand what prison is really like if we are going to have the robust and realistic debate needed to transform New Zealand's criminal justice system. The people who will be leading this change are our politicans. It is vital that they visit prisons and talk to prisoners and properly scrutinise this aspect of our criminal justice system

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Global Factors Facing TV3

Oaktree Capital gave MediaWorks a gallows reprieve in 2013 by pushing out its former Australian owner Ironbridge and facilitating a receivership-driven restructure that enabled MediaWorks to shed a burden of tax liabilities and international programme purchasing contracts. Oaktree eventually assumed 100% ownership of Mediaworks in 2015.

But here’s the rub. In May of this year, Oaktree itself was bought into by the giant Canadian firm Brookfields Asset Management... In the light of the Brookfields stake and the uncertain state of the global economy, Oaktree has come under pressure to shed and/or streamline the underperforming assets in its portfolio. More>>


'Armed Response Teams': Armed Police "Will Cause American-Style Shootings"

The Police Commissioner's announcement that squadcars of officers with automatic rifles will patrol New Zealand's streets is dangerous and unnecessary, according to the criminal justice community organisation People Against Prisons Aotearoa. The ... More>>


Control Orders: Amnesty Says Don't Rush Terrorism Bill

"The problem is, we often see the word “terrorism” being applied broadly by oppressive regimes to detain innocent people who're simply rallying for a better life." More>>


Expert Reaction: $17 million To Fight Online Extremist Content

The Department of Internal Affairs will double its work investigating and preventing violent extremism online. Funding will also help bolster the Chief Censor's work to make fast decisions about harmful content. More>>


Could Do Better: Post-Sroubek Review Of Deportation Info

Ms Tremain acknowledges that the review highlighted some aspects of the process that can be improved and makes five main recommendations to strengthen the existing processes for preparing files for decision-makers. Those recommendations are: More>>


Gordon Campbell: On A New Book On The Leaky Homes Scandal

We all know that journalism is short of cash and under pressure from the speed, brevity and clickbait pressures of the 24/7 news cycle… but hey, given the right subject and a sufficiently stubborn journalist, it can still surpass most of the works of the academic historians... More>>

Regulation: Review Finds NZTA Road Safety Failings

The independent review, carried out by consultant agency MartinJenkins, lists at least 10 reasons for the failures including the agency being focused on customer service at the expense of its policing functions. More>>


Rod Carr: Climate Change Commission Chair-Designate Announced

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has today announced the appointment of Dr Rod Carr as Chair-designate for the Climate Change Commission. More>>


Compliance Complaints: 'Putting Right' Holidays Act Underpayment In Health

The Government is putting right a decade’s worth of underpayment to nurses, doctors and other health workers, says Health Minister Dr David Clark. More>>





InfoPages News Channels