Corrections fail to correct, justice perpetuates crime

Two reminders today that this (and  previous) governments’ punitive approach to crime and punishment is failing dismally, at enormous economic and social cost, and it needs to change.

The Herald highlights the massive cost of building new prisons, with the proposed Wiri project having cost us over $20 million before construction even begins.  The prison is a public private partnership (PPP), a model which is inevitably going to cost more given that the private provider will reasonable demand a profit, and I agree with the Corrections Association assessment that the difference will be made up by cutting staff numbers and wages for those staff, a sure recipe for making an already difficult environment even more dangerous.

The reason for continuing to build prisons despite the Minister for Finance correctly labelling them moral and fiscal failures?  Simply because we have one of  highest rates of incarceration and recidivism in the developed world, and are doing almost nothing to turn those figures around.

Drug and alcohol counsellor Roger Brooking has documented the long term and systemic failure of our prison system in his book ‘Flying Blind’, reviewed recently in the Listener.  Mr Brooking will today be offering copies of his book to MPs on Parliament steps at 1pm, in the hope that more will realise the futility of spending vast sums on containing people in concrete boxes, while doing little or nothing to deal with root causes, especially drug and alcohol dependency or addiction, illiteracy, mental health problems and the paucity of reintegration support for inmates post-release.

As a guide, compare the total amount of the Corrections budget – around $1.1 billion and growing – with the amount spent on alcohol and drug treatment in prison – about $3.4 million.  This despite the evidence that drugs and alcohol are factors in over 80% of all offending. The problem is not that we are spending too little on corrections.  The problem is that we are spending it foolishly, in ways that we know from decades of experience do not and cannot affect positive results.

Unfortunately National MPs will not be on hand to receive a copy of Brooking’s book, having apparently been offended by the subtitle of the book “How the justice system perpetuates crime and the Corrections Department fails to correct”.

Truth hurts I guess.

12 Comments Posted

  1. Like recidivist offender, who is continualy let out to commite these very same crimes again, to create more mayhem and victims, and shows no sign of addressing his behaviour.
    [begin quote]
    Coster, 38, was remanded in custody for sentencing on November 22 after he admitted charges of driving with excess blood-alcohol, driving while disqualified, dangerous driving, failing to stop for police and breaching early release conditions [snip, He] fled to the West Coast, ignoring an indefinite disqualification imposed because of his 13 previous drink-driving convictions and 21 for driving while disqualified.

    Police prosecutor Sergeant Mark Harris said that on February 25, while driving between Ross and Harihari, Coster parked his car across the road on a tight bend, leaving traffic no room to pass. After two cars veered around the vehicle and crashed, Coster drove off but returned after police had arrived to help the owners of the crashed cars.

    When Coster’s vehicle was identified as the cause of the mayhem, police gave chase as he fled south, but abandoned the pursuit when Coster’s speed topped 130km/h and he was taking corners on the wrong side of the road.

    When Coster reached Franz Josef he drove up and down the busy main street, at speed, several times with the radio blaring and hazard lights flashing.

    He then mounted the footpath and caused pedestrians to leap for safety as he drove along it.

    When he eventually stopped the vehicle local residents pounced on it and grabbed the keys. They kept Coster locked inside the vehicle until police arrived.

    A blood-alcohol test showed Coster was more than three times over the limit.

    Lawyer Eymard Bradley said Coster accepted that he would be going back to jail and did not seek bail during the remand period.

    [end quote]

    How long until he kills somebody?

  2. Treating the causes rather than scapegoating the effects is a polar opposite.
    Those who believe in ‘bullet in the head’ solutions are the biggest obstacle to successful outcomes (for everyone).

    The days when I would climb down into the gutter to debate ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ murder are gone for me – good luck with it.

    IME everyone is a mix of good and bad – conditioning is the only variable (a set of moveable goalposts).

    The Realms of Cruelty and Idiocy Love the Robes of Righteousness.

    Capital Punishment Freaks (and I mean Freaks) should place themselves in innocent shoes on execution row – 0.5% mistake rate?

    In Texas they’re not willing to admit that rate is well above 40% – but the new DNA evidence says different.

    Dead and exonerated is possibly not a good feeling – then you have to count the surviving family and friends who will no longer support the State – an average of over 50 people per wrongfull death.
    It’s blind backward bastardry.

    They should just starve, freeze and beat them like the kiwi’s do – it’s not officially execution, but the results are the same.

    People who believe call for cruelty haven’t seen much of our ‘Justice’ system.
    There’s plenty around – and a lot of people who enjoy dishing it out.

    In pure terms, there isn’t that much ‘Justice’ around.

    I’ve been the victim of serious violent(and other)crime a fair bit (what is that about kiwi’s?) but refuse to condemn the offenders because they are already so socially and psychologically challenged that their rage isn’t (wasn’t) personal – it’s a result of long term poverty, unfairness ignorance, abuse, destruction and dysfunction.

    S’why I praise Mr Clendon for this Post.
    Better late than never!

    You advocates of cruelty should hang your heads in shame.

  3. The problem with our existing stock of prisons is that they are community prisons, that allow inmates to socialise, and as a result it is the prison system that converts people who have committed a crime into criminals.

    All prisoners serving a term should be held in solitary confinement.

    The existing community prisons can be used for offenders who you are never going to let out, never ever.

    None of which alters the fact that it seems possible to identify people who will one day end up committing a crime, and we should be finding ways to stop them doing that, at almost any cost. Many people are horrified at spending money to support potential bad guys, but in the final analysis, you are either for crime or against crime, and if all your solutions are post crime solutions, then you are in favour of crime.

  4. bjchip – the cases of wrongfully accused you speak of most likely account for 0.5% of all people convicted.

    In which case you would simply limit capital punishment to cases that are 100% beyond doubt.

    ie if a one handed tagger is caught clearly on CCTV you could safely put a bullet into him.

  5. nzmr2guy

    We don’t condone capital punishment.

    One issue with it is the determination of guilt… in a universe which is limited to human frailties and lack of omniscience.

    We have others, but that one trumps any argument in favor that I have ever encountered.


  6. Whilst I am opposed to capital punishment, I accept the principles of mrmr2guys position:

    The first offence should be addressed immediately with incarceration and intensive rehabilitation to bot send the message that this behaviour sis not acceptable. The ‘wet bus ticket’ approach favoured by many simply condones the criminals activities in their eye and nullifies the idea of a concequence to an action. It is not until many victims have been created that any real action or rehabilittaion occurs, by which time a pattern of bahaviour is entrenched.

    The second offence should be hard time with (normally) no parole. If they did not learn or take the opportunities presented, I dont see why the ‘wet-bus-tickests’ advocates should insist on feeding more victims to recidivist offenders in the vain hope that the recidivist offender will effentually grow tired of theft, assault, rape, robbery ….

  7. I’m led to believe that the loudest voices for continuation of the status quo (Drug prohibition) are more concerned about personal JOB PROTECTION (Police & Corrections) than they are about solving the root causes of the problem (addiction). The ‘Gang problem’ is a direct result of the black-market that sprung up from the current regime.. enough said.

  8. If children can learn respect for authority and rules then surely adults can, perhaps we need a staged punishment system in place How about this for a 3 strike rule, fact is some people dont deserve to live amongst us.

    White collar crime
    1) fine 2) prison 3) bullet in the head

    Graffiti and Wilful Damage
    1) warning 2) hand cut off 3) bullet in the head

    1) warning 2) 1 year prison 3) bullet in the head

    1) bullet in the head 2) problem solved 3) problem solved

  9. As long as successive Govt. continue to run scared from Drug law reform, (counter to the Law Comm. review) & champion the ‘zero-tolerance’ & prohibition message, then the prisons will continue to fill up. Aotearoa/NZ has amongst the most punitive & highest incarceration rates in the world for little more than personal cannabis use or even MEDICINAL uses, which most countries in Europe, Australia, Canada & even USA have accepted as a legitimate option.
    BUT our politicians would have us believe they know better ?!
    They continue to push all the negative stereo-typing (Reefer madness) & misinformation which much of the world is now rejecting & looking at more sensible alternatives (harm minimization, education & health care)as opposed to our ‘lock em up’ small mindedness.
    If this Govt. goes ahead with private prisons, you can guarantee their biggest ‘business item’ will be ‘drug offenders’!
    WAKE-UP people its 2011 not 1961.. the world has turned & we should have moved on from this nonsence by now !! Kia-ora

  10. I’d rather pay more tax to have recidivist offenders removed from society (and treated) for a long period of time, than pay more tax to have recidivist offenders removed from society for a lots of short periods of time (with the attendeant increase in victims).

  11. David’s falwed claim that “a public private partnership (PPP), a model which is inevitably going to cost more” fails to acknowlewdge that PPP’s have been working fine in NZ’s education system for over 30 years.

    Unless David is implying that (evil?) PPPs for our are fine for our kids but somehow bad for our criminals?!?!? How does that rate our kids vs our ciriminals?

  12. Good on You David!
    This issue attracts no votes and consequently is obsolete by some hundreds of years.
    Imo the Primary Failure is recognizing that Society Needs Justice – we pay for it (in more ways than one) yet accept it’s abject failure.
    If it was a meal you’d send it back eh?

Comments are closed.