Tagged: legislation

There’s a serious problem with prisons when probable abuse is a factor in sentencing

According to Section 5 of the Corrections Act 2004, the “purpose of the corrections system is to improve public safety and contribute to the maintenance of a just society” through “safe, secure, humane and effective” sentences, assistance with rehabilitation and reintegration, the best decisions by courts and the Parole Board, and corrections facilities that meet the UN Standard Minimum Rules of the Treatment of Prisoners and other sections of the Act.

The implication is that prison punishment consists of a simple lack of liberty; to meet the standards of public safety and justice, we are taking prisoners out of the community and punishing them by depriving them of a certain degree and amount of liberty, deemed proportional to their unlawful actions. We’re not punishing them with physical violence and psychological humiliation. We don’t do it that way anymore … in theory.

So we know that something is seriously wrong with prisons when sentencing judges have to take into account the high likelihood of physical, sexual and emotional abuse when determining jail terms:

Transgender prison decision ‘a breach of rights’“, Radio New Zealand News, 20/12/2012

A judge at Whangarei District Court on Wednesday sentenced Glen Cooper [a transgender criminal] to a reduced prison term, because the likelihood of harassment in a men’s jail.

The court heard Cooper had already been attacked in jail while awaiting sentence.

The Department of Corrections said Cooper has not had sex change surgery so must go to the men’s prison.

On National Radio this morning, Kim Workman from Rethinking Crime and Punishment talked about how our prisons have become very secure, but highly unsafe. This Wikipedia article is a good read, making the same points; we have very few escapes or positive drug tests, but troubling figures for prisoner assaults on staff and other prisoners, and for mental health and suicide.

Let’s not let our base, vindictive, foolishscapegoating punitive instincts get in the way of making prisons safer. When you take away people’s freedom and responsibility to look after themselves, it becomes entirely your responsibility to look after them and keep them safe.  Letting prisoners be exposed to abuse and violence can’t do any good, it goes against the legislated role of prisons, and in no way can it be considered just.

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One step closer to a two-state solution

Everybody knows that a two-state solution is the best way forward for Israel and Palestine; that’s why even the US pays lip service to it.  But in practice of course they and Israel are committed to gradually colonising, blockading and bombing Palestine out of existence.

So it’s great news that the UN has voted overwhelmingly in favour of upgrading Palestine from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” (like the Vatican).  It’s a small victory but it’s a step in the right direction for the legitimacy of the Palestinian nation, the two-state solution and – hopefully, eventually, maybe – peace.

Congratulations to Murray McCully for the pleasant surprise of putting New Zealand’s vote in favour of the resolution, rather than opposing like the US, Canada and of course Israel, or abstaining like the UK and Australia.

National thinks the minimum wage is too high… Submit (or submit?)

Photo pinched from Frank Macskasy’s blog

So, inequality is at its highest ever, 270,000 kids are living in poverty, unemployment is still rising and thousands are moving to Australia where you can earn about NZ$25 working at a supermarket… what’s the problem according to National? Under 20s on the minimum wage are earning too much!

They’re currently inviting submissions on their euphemistically titled “Starting-out Wage”, which proposes to reduce the minimum wage to $10.80 per hour for certain young people and new workers.

Instructions on how to make an online submission are on No Right Turn.  The deadline is this Tuesday.

My submission is here.