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Over Incarcerating and Under Estimating Potential of Whānau

Misplaced priorities: Over Incarcerating and Under Estimating Potential of Whānau

Dame Tariana Turia is concerned that Government has lost its focus on social investment by choosing to spend more on locking people up than freeing New Zealanders from poverty.

“Our children are being punished with a lifelong sentence of impoverishment,  with a third of New Zealand children (300,000) living below the poverty line.   We have become immune to the hazardous markers of poverty and their devastating effects: living in cold, damp, over-crowded houses; food poverty or uncertainty;  poor health; unstable employment.   It is as if we have normalised the mind-set that homelessness, skin infections, rheumatic fever, hunger are the new New Zealand way”.

“Meanwhile it is seemingly easy to dig deep into Crown pockets for extra spending of $2.5 billion over five years to buy a new building at Mt Eden; provide for double-bunking at Ngawha, establish a possible new 1500 beds in the Waikeria site” said Mrs Turia.

“The saddest thing for me was to hear the statement from the Minister of Finance that confirmed spending on prison capacity limits spending on other options”.

“Instead of taking a preventive approach to minimise the people who enter and re-enter prisons, Government is boosting spending on prisons and Labour is building up the numbers of police by another 1000 recruits”.

“I wonder why Ministers and Ministries aren’t taking an investment approach to looking at the gains achieved by Scandanavian countries, who have achieved far lower incarceration and crime rates, leading to the closure of prisons.   To them, prison is about rehabilitation; the site of last resort; rather than a breeding ground for future criminals.

“It’s all wrong – we blame the poor for being poor; we under deliver on mental health support and traumatic brain injuries; we label parents as not looking after their children, we joke that it's easier to count the number of stoats and possums than measure the number of children in poverty”.

“And yet we choose to invest in more jails; to introduce tougher bail laws; to hand out harsher sentences; rather than to take immediate action for children who are forced to live in cars and garages; or to remedy the exceptional circumstances families find themselves in”.

“I think this latest announcement of the billion dollar spend in incarceration must force us all to re-examine what are the fundamental values that New Zealand upholds for the sake of our future prosperity and the wellbeing of all our children”.

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