A year in review – David Clendon – 2015

A quick year-end pop-quiz – which government department has had a 220% increase in its budget over the last decade, but has still managed to end this year mired in mismanagement, under-performance, violence and mayhem; requiring a multi-million dollar emergency cash injection to keep the whole catastrophe afloat?

Corrections, take a bow.

Of all the portfolios for which I am responsible, Corrections has been the ‘stand-out’ for me in 2015, for all the wrong reasons.


Years of tribal warfare between Labour and National, each determined to prove itself ‘tougher on crime’ than the other, has delivered us a legislative and judicial framework such that, while crime and offending is trending down, our imprisonment rates are reaching historic highs. Yes, there is something seriously wrong with that picture.

The National government’s ‘solution’ has been to introduce profit-seeking private management into the mix. This, we were told, would bring to the sector “… new ideas and international best practice… high standards of professionalism, safety, rehabilitation and security”.  Oops.

I have entered the prisons and met with inmates who have had their basic rights to humane treatment denied them; whose well-being and indeed lives have been put at risk due to a lack of proper medical care; who have been assaulted and bullied; who have missed their chance at parole because the system could not deliver the programmes that the parole board required them to do as a pre-condition for release.

There are some dedicated, highly skilled and compassionate people employed within our prisons and related services, doing difficult and often dangerous work. But the system is badly broken, and the prevailing culture within it is an impediment to achieving better outcomes.

On a more positive note (in deference to the season), we are by no means bereft of ideas about how to do much better. The community sector with which I engage contains a wealth of experience and skills that could make a huge difference if they were given the opportunity to more actively participate and influence practice.  Advocating for change in penal policy is not always the ‘sexiest’ or most popular political work, but change is needed urgently, and that motivates me to keep coming back for more!

Credit: Australian Associated Press
Speaking at a rally at Mt Eden Prison. Credit: Australian Associated Press

3 Comments Posted

  1. @CoroDale – we don’t need pre-crime software. We (as in the people who understand these things, not me!) know before a kid is born the degree of trouble it will end up in, and have years of evidence to prove it. However, we, as a society, don’t think it is appropriate to make the necessary provisions that would prevent the parents who are about to breed the next generation of trouble from doing so.

  2. Budget increases for Corrections -makes me nervous.

    As David illustrates, it’s common knowledge that genuine rehabilitation isn’t the aim of the game.
    Now that the 5-Eyes are officially aiming to catch criminals while they’re still innocent –


    how much of that money is going into criminal profiling programmes? Oh, and now Serco is doing business in NZ Corrections –


    One-Eye to rule them all! This Washingtonisation is getting up my nose. The media’s Halloween, and black friday, black friday, black friday, NLP is bad enough. But now it seems the puppet master wont be happy till he’s got NZ military police dressed like Star Wars storm troopers.

    Guess it’s time to join the local shooting club. Oops, forgot that the 5-Eyes are reading.

    >“On behalf of The NZ Corrections Department, we would like to welcome you – Dale Toki Simpson, born 30.04.1980, Thames – to our potential ISIS League watch list.”

    Trying to finish on the positive; glade my Mum has taken up archery.

    Lookin forward to talkin to the local shooters club about Gift-voucher currencies. If we can get the shooters club issuing currency, should make base for stable growth. I know they make their own ammo, but wander if those clay birds are being produced locally?

    Many thanks for all David, wishing you some quality RnR this festive season,


  3. This is one of those areas that doesn’t bear close examination. National followed its ideological idee’ fixe and privatized without a clue. Here is the clue they missed.

    Incarcerating someone is something that ONLY the State can legally do, and as a result is something that ONLY the State can be responsible for, and it is not just wrong to think about, it is impossible for the State to offload that responsibility to a private enterprise.

    The very act of attempting to outsource that responsibility exposes the utter ethical bankruptcy of the National Party. This is not the only area where it is obvious, but it is one of the easiest to understand.

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