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.