Chief Justice's call for shorter sentences shocks Power
Thu, 16 Jul 2009 12:00a.m.
It is estimated the prison population will rise by 5,000 in the next decade, that will mean more prisons, more staff and many a cost of many more millions of dollars.
But the Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias has an idea to prevent the increase - the government should look at granting prisoners a get out of jail free card.
"Other countries use executive amnesties to send prisoners into the community early to prevent over-crowding," says Dame Sian Elias.
"Such solutions will not please many but the alternatives and the cost of overcrowding need to be weighed,” she adds.
That brought an immediate shout of objection from Justice Minister Simon Power
“It does not represent government policy,” says Mr Power.
According to Power it never will. He's also offered Dame Sian some pointed advice.
“The government makes the law on behalf of New Zealanders who elect them, judges take that law and apply it. That’s the end of the matter,” says Mr Power.
But the Chief Justice says imprisonment doesn't work.
More needs to be done on rehabilitation, there should be more use of home detention and to cap it all, sentences are now too long.
But ACT believes …
“What we need in fact is more imprisonment, not less, the policies of treating criminals as though they need therapy and release them to some sort of community care simply hasn't worked,” says ACT MP and law and order spokesperson David Garrett. But prison staff say she should be acquitted of criticism on all counts.
“They are in line with what’s happening around the world, she’s not the first person to suggest this, she just happens to be the person who's bravest to say it in New Zealand,” says Brendon Hanlon. But bravery doesn't always win in politics and Dame Sian Elias is going down without appeal on this one.
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18/09/2009 1:55:09 p.m.
The policy of drug prohibition is unravelling in USA at the moment. One magazine, Fortune, is running a major story on the failings of prohibition policy in the US, and two other major publications I know are doing the same. Has prohibition's time come? Are we preparing to shift focus away from punishment to health and public safety?The problem is that despite some peoples best efforts to steer people away from drugs, demand hasn't gone down, it has risen. Just look at what has happened over the last thirty years with cannabis in this country. We have the highest arrest rates for cannabis crime, yet we have the highest use statistics across all demographics of our population. Something is not working. In Holland, anyone over 18 can buy and possess cannabis products in a seemingly limitless array of strengths and strains, yet significantly less children and young people use the drug in that part of the world compared to kiwi kids.Portugal decriminalised all drugs in 2001, (even heroin and meth,) and again the system there seems to be working, ie, children and teenagers are choosing to leave drugs alone for the most part.Many homicides in NZ have some connection to drug policy. The cop who was shot dead with a pellet as he fled being discovered planting a tracking device on a drug associated vehicle was one example. The war cannot be won in the terms that victory has been packaged in the public mind. He was a good man doing an impossible job. We've seen "routine cannabis enquiries" turn into shootouts in suburban Napier. We've seen a two year old take a .303 bullet to the chest compliments of a gang related driveby shooting. New Zealand simply cannot afford to incarcerate another 5000 offenders, we only need stop producing them by taking care with the social environment we create with the tools of our political system.Longer sentences have not worked in USA, even with penalty of death, what makes anyone believe these kneejerk responses will work here?
20/07/2009 9:39:07 a.m.
Why not follow the asian or Arabic form of Justice?
17/07/2009 12:32:49 p.m.
Yes we do need to reform prisoners.I suggest putting efforts into the youth offenders but keep the older ones locked up and the chain will be broken. To late for the harden ones now lets save the savable and get it right instead of having the funds going to areas that are not fixable.
17/07/2009 12:06:45 p.m.
I agree with Thomas, and any future Eden and improved society needs a reduction of imprisonment and caging people. If I was very ill I would probably prefer a Consultant expert opinion as the Doctor's advice would be more informed than that of politicians in power; So why do we ignore highly qualified Judges. Is it because the Chief Justice is a woman, who perhaps wants to empower people through nurturing better community spirits and home regard? Prison is an outdated macho world where women suffer greatly. And is it natural to deny healthy adults sexual contact and friends? We should be less influenced by American right wing attitudes and look to Denmark for best parcatice> Some of us seem to want pain, chain gangs and branding! We need to have a bit of tender care: It is tough enough to arrest property as drug offenders are suffering, and to suffer loss and humiliation. People need to be rehabilitated and to rebuild their lives as they have long since paid their punishment and should be forgiven and embraced. Restoractive Justice and support groups are the way forward. As someone who has sometimes felt that I exist in an emotional prison I can only say Prison works for staff, and the inmates who can't be bothered to start all over again and truely embrace a second chance to build a good life. Be empowered not just like Simon Power! GROMIT 2
17/07/2009 8:11:17 a.m.
NZ needs more brave and intelligent opinions in the area of justice.Imprisonment will not 'fix' crime, western society has a long road ahead to try and stop criminal behaviour and only by responding to crime in a thoughful manner will we ever reduce the problem.
16/07/2009 8:43:16 p.m.
Imprisonment works very well, it's just that the Chief Justice doesn't work and should be put in her place, i.e. sacked. Bleeding heart do-gooders belong in Salvation Army op shops, not in positions that hold substantial power.
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