Posts Tagged ‘crime’

Nats to privatise prisons

August 4, 2008

Was it a slip-up by Simon Powers? In his press release he says, “And you can expect to hear more on sentencing and prisons in the next few months.” Nothing about privatising prisons.

But in his speech to the weekend conference he says quite clearly”

“We will allow tendering for the management of prisons by non-government providers.”

If it’s not a slip-up it seems a strange way to announce a major policy. Were they trying to slip it in under the radar?

As Phil Goff points out, it’s pure ideology. We know from experience in NZ and Britain that it’s not about saving money or improving management. Goff:

“Private management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison resulted in a higher operating budget for remand prisoners of $42,000 per annum when compared with the public sector costs of $36,000 per annum.”

In Britain, GSL (formerly Group 4) has shown the shortcomings of profit-driven detention. A 2005 BBC documentary Detention Undercover: The Real Story showed GSL staff at the Oakington Immigration Reception Centre shouting racial abuse and mistreating inmates. At Rye Hill prison one suicide-risk prisoner died from self-sustained injuries. “It emerged that nobody had entered the cell for 15 hours.” In 2006 GSL topped the table of complaints of misconduct from asylum seekers and their lawyers, with 30% of all complaints made.

Do we want this here? Yes, our prison “services” need serious attention, which is what star-performer Goff has been about. (I might note in passing that the rot seemed to set in when the Corrections Dept was run by a former Treasury official.) But the “quick fix” afforded by private sector management is more likely to make things worse, if you look at the evidence.

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How do you humiliate a murderer?

July 20, 2008

It was inevitable, I suppose. News today that the inmates named in a Corrections Dept file left in a public place plan to sue for damages for “distress and humiliation” suffered when their personal details were made known.

I have to say that when I first heard about this episode I began to wonder whether it wasn’t a dirty trick designed to further undermine the Government. It followed a string of similar lapses by officials in the UK that are seen as damaging the Labour Government there.

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Rape: put the accused on trial, not the victim

July 16, 2008

Largely overlooked on the blogosphere have been the recommendations in Law Commission’s report (large pdf) on the disclosure of previous convictions, similar offending, etc, in court.

The most interesting and important may not have been central to the original brief, which was to some extent obviated by the Court of Appeal’s view of the Evidence Act 2006. It’s about wider court processes in sexual offence trials.

The Report highlights the evidence of retired Appeal Court Justice Ted Thomas that, “the nature and impact of the trial in sexual cases on complainants is a brutalising and distressing experience in which the complainant is effectively put on trial.”

It is. The focus is all too often the complainant’s sexual history and conduct. It is all too often the victim who is rigorously cross-examined in an attempt to undermine her credibility. The victimisation of the victims in NZ’s sexual offence cases has been a weeping sore for far too long.

The Law Commission, clearly swayed by Thomas’s evidence, concludes:

“We formed the view that the government should undertake an inquiry into whether the present adversarial trial process should be modified or replaced by some alternative model, either for sex offences or for some wider class of offences.”

“The Task Force on Sexual Violence which is presently sitting should be asked to define the issues and possible options that could be considered by that inquiry.”

“We do not express any view about what the outcome of the inquiry should be but we are troubled about the manner in which these cases are currently dealt with.”

An excellent suggestion. The “alternative model” they’re talking about is the inquisitorial system. As Catriona MacLennan pointed out on Nine-to-noon today, aspects of the inquisitorial system have been introduced in areas such as employment law and small claims adjudication, so it’s not such a revolutionary idea to be looking at.

I don’t see why we’re so wedded to the adversarial system. It’s only indirectly aimed at seeing justice done, despite what many NZers think. Here’s hoping that the government takes up the Law Commission’s recommendations without delay.

[Note:The RNZ interview is worth listening to. MacLennan suggests that defendants prove consent.]