‘Monitoring Places of Detention’ – a Wake-up call for NZers.

A report released this month has provided evidence supporting the view that we still have a lot of work to do to make our prisons decent, humane, and likely to release people back into society in better shape then when they went in.

New Zealand is a signatory to the ‘Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture’ (OPCAT), an international human rights treaty intended to help prevent torture and ill-treatment in places where people are denied their liberty.  These include prisons,  police and court cells, youth residences, and defence force detention facilities.

“Independent monitoring bodies called National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) are empowered under OPCAT to regularly visit places of detention, and make recommendations aimed at strengthening protections, improving treatment and conditions, and preventing torture or ill treatment”.

In New Zealand the ‘NPMs’ include the Ombudsman, the Independent Police Conduct Authority, the Children’s Commissioner, the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments, and the Human Rights Commission.

The latest report on the state of our prisons and other detention sites indicates that in many respects things are as they should be, and in some instances positive progress is being made.

Where the wheels begin to fall off is in the section of the report that addresses shortcomings in prison segregation facilities or ‘management units’.  At Auckland prison (often known as Paremoremo), “…accommodation for those prisoners currently undergoing a period of segregation is well below standard and could be considered cruel and inhuman for the purposes of the Conventions Against Torture”.

The report points to failures of prison management to provide for minimum entitlements to exercise; a lack of emphasis on programmes to address poor behaviour, or on reintegration; too little ‘unlock time (time out of cells for prisoners); and an overall lack of managerial oversight.

All of this is a recipe for unrest and violent outbursts in our prisons, and is counter-productive to improving the attitude and behaviour of some of our most difficult inmates (most of whom will eventually be released back into the community).

It would serve no-one’s interests for us to return to the dark days of the Behaviour Management Regime, that triggered the Taunoa case, and the resultant  muddling through various iterations of the wholly ineffective prisoner’s and victim’s compensation legislation.

It is entirely likely that the ongoing failure of the Corrections Department to meet the minimum required standards of treatment and practice will lead to legal action being taken.  In the interests of our reputation as a country that respects human rights, and in order to better provide for public safety, we need to do much better.  It is long past the time for governments to give more than lip service to a shift away away from a culture of containment and punishment, and towards adopting best practice in crime prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration.



3 Comments Posted

  1. If we had decent booze regulation and evidence based drug laws ( which would include cannabis law reform ), then we could be closing prisons instead of building and filling new ones…..

    Two things stand out to me which show how out of control the booze pushers really are.

    One is the lay-out of supermarkets which force me to walk through or past the Piss aisles before I even get to where the food is.

    The other is the 3 or 4 BILLION worth of damage which the drug booze does to our country and which the tax payers end up covering.

    The drug booze does pull in about a billion bucks in excise tax, gst etc.

    But the bill for all the accidents, sickness, addiction, crime etc etc etc runs to many times what the booze pushers pay back in tax.

    Raising the tax on booze to what it should be and decriminalizing cannabis alone would save the country many billions when we most need it.

    But as this money would not go to greedy rich pricks like john the money trader key then national will ignore it and keep taking the ‘gifts & donations’ from the booze industry

  2. I mean its good to be on the case with decline in human rights in the justice system, but really. Half a million of us are defined as CRIMINALS for doing only what is natural, using a remarkable natural GREEN herb. So much for freedom from DISCRIMINATION. and its a despicable AND EXTREME way to define INNOCENT people, the flip side is criminality and Gangs and parasite Justice/Police sector sucking up all our taxes and NZ learing that bullying and hypocrisy is normal NZ way of life…and lies to youth who ignore the hypoctitical shit they hear about weed alcohol, etc (HEALTH PROMOTION IMPEDIMENT) and yet the Greens say nothing and … Maori get herded through the criminal justice system for growing weed and you guys in the Greens keep letting the ‘justice’ system predicate its entire reason to be on the bogus CRIMINAL definition. No mention, in fact no law and order advocacy AT ALL… then each election comes along you get another third of your votes on the basis that youre the only electable party with Cannabis LR as a platform… then pretend that your NEW supporters that are CONSERVATIVE and would get upset with mention of dope. Ive seen this happen 5 or 6 elections now. Basically the Green Party should either get rid of the Aussie Suit who doesn’t give a shit about NZs underclass, and front up on Nz’S BIGGEST justice issue (if not biggest ISSUE, FULL STOP), or drop it altogether if you don’t believe in it (and the track record demonstrates that you don’t understand or believe in it) …START TALKING PLEASE GREENS, ITS ELECTION YEAR.

  3. please don’t talk about reforming prison conditions or ‘rethinking crime and punishment’ without addressing the completely unnecessary and socially damaging//unjust//expensive CRIMINALISATION policy which has made a farce of Law and Order and is filling prisons in NZ. you know what that is – it’s your Party’s own dormant weed reform policy that Russel wont let you talk about.

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