Anal-ysis, Corrections Style.

Most New Zealanders would agree that we live in a country where human rights are  protected, where we willingly comply with international agreements to treat people fairly and humanely, and civil rights are respected.

Most of the time, they would be right.  Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly evident that in the case of people convicted or even accused of crimes, we are not meeting the standards that we should expect to be met in a liberal democracy.

Roger Brooking, the author of Flying Blind , has blogged recently about some of the brutal and degrading practices that are commonplace in our prisons.  Sleep deprivation, constantly repeated strip searches, inadequate physical and mental health care  – these are attributes most of us would ascribe to totalitarian regimes with no regard for human rights or the rule of law.

There is a Corrections Amendment bill currently before Parliament, and it would be nice to report that the law is moving towards more rather than less humane treatment of accused and convicted people, but unfortunately the reverse is true.

I recommend a look at the first reading speeches for this Bill, where Julie-Anne Genter and I spell out the reasons the Greens are opposing it.  Julie refers specifically to the issue of ‘squat searches’, to the evident discomfit of the Hon Maurice Williamson, who would clearly prefer not to be confronted with the reality of what is being proposed.

If an MP or anyone else gets squeamish about such treatment of people, so plainly described in Roger’s blog, then let them speak out against such abuse, and in favour of more humane and intelligent treatment.

The proposed legislation would serve to worsen the situation Roger describes.  I encourage people to challenge government MPs and others who support the bill, ask them why they think it is ok.

Ask them to justify this sort of treatment which does not match our commitment to human rights, and which in any case does nothing to make our communities safer.  We just end up with people being released from prison who are more alienated from society and societal norms, more likely to reoffend, more likely to respond in kind to the the brutal treatment they have been subjected to.  We can do better, and we should.

3 Comments Posted

  1. I dont wish to ‘tar all police, with same brush..’ BUT as G.W. says courtesy/good manners & RESPECT go both ways. Looking at the ‘storming of the Urewera’ by ninjas with police badges.. I dont think respect was on their agenda.

    Everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions. This includes those given ‘authority’ to arrest & charge/detain others.


  2. @zedd

    The police’s mandate is not to treat suspects as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – quite the opposite in fact.

    The role of the police is to collect evidence that allows commencement of a prosecution, on the premise that Crown Prosecutor wont proceed with the process unless the weight of evidence is favorable to securing a conviction.

    The role of judges and/or jurists is to assume the innocence of the accused, until such time as evidence is produced that supports a guilty verdict.

    Your point still stands around common courtesy, however; good manners never go out of fashion.

  3. Speaking from experience (been arrested more than once) but only been convicted once (for a minor ‘offence’) I felt that the police’s attitude was one of being: GUILTY AS CHARGED & was ‘handled’ & spoken to accordingly. The courtesy went ‘out the window’ & it was like being in a concentration camp. (complete lack of respect on their part).. I thought the legal system in most democracies, expect ‘innocent until PROVEN guilty’. I felt that it was the other way around.

    Interestingly, when you see these ‘reality TV’ shows the presence of the camera, appears to show them ‘acting in a different light’.. ie polite & respectful.


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