Here is what was said about THIS site in Parliament today
Corrections, Department—Ministerial Confidence
12. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in his department; if so, why?
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Associate Minister of Corrections) on behalf of the Minister of Corrections: Yes, but there is always room for improvement.
Simon Power: Why has the Minister failed to comment on the fact that a prisoner is writing about life behind bars on a weblog, when, on the one hand, his chief executive’s response has been “so what”, yet, on the other hand, the Prime Minister has felt the need to wade into the issue by stating her concern that: “It raises a whole new set of issues.”; who does the Minister agree with—the chief executive officer of his department or the Prime Minister?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: As the member knows, this is an operational matter. But I will say that prisoners are encouraged to write to friends, families, and associates, and they do not have direct access to the Internet, as the member knows. The Department of Corrections has the ability, under the Corrections Act, to vet letters, and it does. The prisoner’s observations of prison life as recorded on the website do not breach the Act.
Martin Gallagher: Has the Minister seen any reports about the effectiveness of corrections officers?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Yes, I have. As reported in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, corrections officers at Auckland prison did an excellent job of preventing an attempted escape by a group of prisoners. Also, a search of other prisons revealed a number of contraband items. This is an example of the success of Department of Corrections staff and their effectiveness in keeping society safe.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister’s statement: “It used to be that when you were put away, you were put away from society.”, or that of the chief executive officer of the Department of Corrections: “Unless he actually does anything illegal by way of content, or sends the letters to someone he shouldn’t, then we don’t have a problem.”; who does the Minister agree with—the chief executive officer of the Department of Corrections or the Prime Minister?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: As the member should know, people who are in prison are out of society. Has he not noticed that? The statement made by the chief executive officer of the Department of Corrections was quite simple—prisoners do have the ability to write to people outside prison. What does the member not understand about that?
Keith Locke: Would it improve prisoner rehabilitation if more inmates followed Tim Selwyn’s example by practising and improving their creative literary skills; and is it not the case that no good Government should in any way be scared of inmates bringing to public attention prison problems that need to be fixed?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: My understanding is that Mr Selwyn is very creative.
Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that a blog has been used to criticise a sentencing judge, claiming an inmate was the victim of “bad luck”; and how does he think victims would feel if a convicted murderer was allowed to say such things publicly?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I was not aware of that particular statement, but if the member wants to put it down in writing, I will certainly give him a written response.
Simon Power: Is the Minister familiar with the department’s policy of restricting media access to prisoners unless they obtain the written approval of the chief executive and as long as prison security or victims’ interests are not compromised; if so, why is his department so out of touch that it continues to treat blog instalments as private letters when they are clearly intended for public audiences?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: As the member should know, no one is free to move in and out of prison at will; they must seek the approval of the Department of Corrections. What does the member not understand about that, either?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I refer you to Speaker’s ruling 157/1: “A Minister must attempt to give a reasonable answer to a question.” My colleague asked a question, quite specifically, about blogging by prisoners in the Minister’s department. The Minister gave a completely irrelevant answer that had nothing to do with the use of electronics in communicating with the general public. I think you should require him to address the question that was raised by my colleague Mr Simon Power.
Madam SPEAKER: If members would please lower their tone in the House, it would be easy for me to hear the answers. I did not hear what the Minister said. I ask him to repeat his answer in the light of what has been said.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: In response to the first part of the member’s question, I point out that the media, or any other members of the public, are not free to enter and leave prisons at will. They must seek permission, as is required under the Act. Secondly, Mr Selwyn did not post anything on the Internet, and the member knows that.
Simon Power: I seek leave to ask the Minister again whether he agrees with the chief executive officer of the Department of Corrections or with the Prime Minister.
Madam SPEAKER: That is a supplementary question?
Simon Power: No, I seek leave.
Madam SPEAKER: The member has sought leave. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table Tim Selwyn’s blogs, for the education of the National Party.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table the acknowledgments page of Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom—Dr Brash’s favourite book—in which he explains how he had to smuggle out of prison the notes for that book. Is that what the National Party wants to happen—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Now can anyone guess why Helen Clarke doesn’t like Tim much? Well, it might have something to do with that axe through the window art installation Mr Selwyn created. Simon Power had a flush of blood to the head in the Weekend when it was revealed Tim was writing his Prison Blog, and I guess Simon assumed that Tim had access to the internet – doesn’t that tell us something about the Opposition spokesperson for corrections? Simon has started to believe his own hype about how prisons are hotels, a line he has used to whip up peoples fear of crime so he can sound hardline and populist on crime. Surely the man who wants one day to be the Corrections Minister would know that Prisoners DO NOT HAVE ANY ACCESS to the internet – or does Simon just like the sound of his own voice?
God forbid if Simon ACTUALLY became Corrections Minister, he’d have prisoners alongside the road shackled together in chain-gangs breaking rock singing gospel spirituals. With Bossman Power standing over them wearing mirrored glasses and brandishing a baton.
What a glorious leap backwards!