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Monday, January 29, 2007

The Prison Industrial Complex


I think there is something terribly wrong with our prison system and the public perception of it. There were a flurry of stories in the weekend papers about a Corrections Department in free fall. The near collapse system is groaning with over crowding and under funding and is producing prisoners who on release are committing worse crimes.

The natural fear and anger that comes from being the victim of crime has warped into something that ends up supporting a system that only exacerbates the culture of violence inside prisons. The problem with having an intense culture of fear and violence in prison, is that it makes any chance of rehabilitation that much more difficult. The environment of the actual prisons needs to be changed and we need to start seeking better solutions than jail, and the jails we do have should be built with rehabilitation foremost in it’s design (needless to say the function of keeping prisoners in jails would also be high on the agenda).

Corrections chaos sparks Nats outrage
Allegations of prisoners receiving drugs and cash in court and probation bungling over killer Graeme Burton points to widespread incompetence in the justice system. Nicola Boyes reports.
The Opposition is demanding a sweeping and independent inquiry into the Department of Corrections as fresh evidence of corruption and incompetence is revealed. The Corrections Minister wants an immediate report into allegations of corruption at Rotorua District Court after a Sunday Star-Times investigation found Corrections officers are allowing inmates' families and friends in the court's back door, bringing in food, drugs, money and other contraband. This comes on top of yesterday's revelations by the Dominion Post that police had begged the probation service - run by Corrections - to recall Graeme Burton to jail five weeks before he allegedly went on a shooting rampage.

Simmering below these headlines has been a stream of serious allegations including:
Claims by a Dutch couple recruited to work at Rimutaka Prison that officers were being bribed by gangs and prisoners had unlimited access to drugs.

Claims that a smorgasbord of drugs is available to Mt Eden prison inmates, sold under guards' noses.

Reform programmes being run in the prisons leading to higher rates of recidivism.

A Star-Times inquiry showing a Rotorua police jailer has been charged with supplying methamphetamine to inmates.

Claims from the Prison Officers Association that prison managers turn a blind eye to violent assaults in prisons in order to claim bonuses.


This month's release of a convicted rapist, who raped a tourist in an Auckland backpacker hostel, into an Auckland boarding house.
Similar concerns about the need for an independent anti-corruption taskforce have been aired about the British Prison Service. The BBC yesterday reported that guards accepted that drugs were necessary in the prison environment to encourage discipline. Violence in New Zealand's prisons is being blamed for the defection of large numbers of prison guards recruited from Holland and the UK. The department held two overseas campaigns - one in Samoa in 2004 which cost $124,837, and one in Britain and the Netherlands in 2005, which cost $291,516 (including two weeks' accommodation on arrival in New Zealand).
Of those offered jobs, 43% of Dutch nationals, 41% of British and 14% of Samoans turned them down. Of those who came to New Zealand, 24% of Dutch prison officers and 13.5% of British officers have left.
Corrections Association boss Beven Hanlon says the Dutch recruits "really struggled" with the cultural differences. "They are used to a very open, very safe prison system there, which is largely non-violent. Our prisons are very violent places and that has been a big culture shock for them."


The saddest thing about the entire Graeme Burton fiasco is that the whole thing seems to have been so predictable. How on Earth could someone with a violent background be released straight from segregation inside to the freedom in the outside world with no adjustment period? Am I surprised that Graeme exploded into violent rage at everyone and everything after being released minus any adjustment programme in what seems to be a parole decision made not based on public safety, but on overcrowding grounds.

Am I surprised that after a slow news day when all the media suddenly carried ‘Public Enemy Number One’ news broadcasts of Burton (for what at the time was only a breach of parole), that an ill-adjusted Burton freaked out and went on the rampage? Not that any of this is in any way a defense for Burton’s horrific actions, but there are reasons why these things happen, and if we don’t try to understand the reasons, we are not going to be able to change the paradigm of this debate.

Take Bailey Junior Kurariki – his case touched the same raw nerve that Don Brash’s ‘Maaaari get too much’ did on talkback radio land, there was this warped perception that trying to defend their actions as those of stupid, stupid children seemed to many the worst extremes of political correctness gone mad and there was a national outcry to punish this little punk. I remember arguing at the time that this all felt far too knee jerk and that sending a 12 year old into our under resourced youth prison system for 7 years had more chances of creating a monster than a reformed citizen, and here we are now fretting that his release date is around the corner, knowing full well that his experiences inside during such an important personality growth stage will hardly lean him towards a bright future. Wouldn’t we all feel safer if we knew Prisoners would get the chance to rehabilitate inside so that on their full sentence release we could trust the system rather than the continuation of the current retribution culture that doesn’t work.

13 Comments:

At 29/1/07 9:27 pm, Blogger Mark said...

"..if we don’t try to understand the reasons, we are not going to be able to change the paradigm of this debate".
Exactly. So we need to understand the reasons WHY Australians are so racist, Israelis grab land, Bush feels the need to invade, Brash says Maoris get too much, rednecks think the way they do, people vote National etc.. There are root causes to be investigated here rather than put downs of these people.
So please don't tell me root causes are not applicable to the above. That would be so.. well.. hypocritical.

 
At 30/1/07 12:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Am I surprised that after a slow news day when all the media suddenly carried ‘Public Enemy Number One’ news broadcasts of Burton (for what at the time was only a breach of parole), that an ill-adjusted Burton freaked out and went on the rampage?"

Actually bomber the media informed us of Burton after he had viciously attacked another man, and, when police searched his apartment, found a large cache of guns, knifes, flak jackets etc...

But don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

 
At 30/1/07 5:01 pm, Blogger bomber said...

Actually bomber the media informed us of Burton after he had viciously attacked another man, and, when police searched his apartment, found a large cache of guns, knifes, flak jackets etc...

ACTUALLY ANON Burton had assaulted a guy at an apartment block AND had breached bail, the Police did their song and dance to a breathless media - and the story avalanched from there - how was an unadjusted person just released from Prison going to behave under that media scrutiny? The Police certainly understood the problem, it was as if they underestimated the media attention and oversold the story because the next day the police were putting out an extremely conciliatory message through the media saying that they wanted to ‘talk’ to Burton. The Media overblew this story (an assault and breaching parole hardly makes you public enemy number one) which contributed to the paranoia of a prisoner obviously out of his depth after being released straight from segs. The cache of guns etc were part of the Police press release to the media, who dutifully huffed and puffed.

But don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Tell me Anon, (seeing as you are so good with the facts) what do you think the effects of such overblown media attention on a paranoid violent prisoner recently released with no adjustment period straight into the community from segregation in Prison?

 
At 31/1/07 3:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ask how a paroled murderer who has just assaulted a man, breached his parole (goes without saying), and has a large cache of weapons stashed at his apartment going to react?

The same way he always has, with violence.

You think the media made Burton kill again?
You think Burton was just misunderstood when he assaulted the man?
You think Burton was just misunderstood when he started amassing a small arsenal?

"Tell me Anon, (seeing as you are so good with the facts) what do you think the effects of such overblown media attention on a paranoid violent prisoner recently released with no adjustment period straight into the community from segregation in Prison?"

You have hit the nail on the head.
Why was a paranoid violent prisoner released at all?

But the effects of the media had no bearing on the way Burton lived his life.
He assaulted the man with no media attention.
He stashed weapons with no media attention.

This man should never have been released, it is a pity another innocent person had to die to see this happen.

But to blame the media for this mans actions?
Pitiful.

 
At 31/1/07 3:53 pm, Anonymous torpedo-er said...

Now now Mark, the 'root cause' theory is ONLY applicable when you are defending criminals, maoris, or muslims, and does not apply to Australians, Americans, Christians or right-wingers. That's 'Bomber's law' 101.

 
At 31/1/07 3:54 pm, Anonymous deano said...

Slightly off-topic folks, but I heard that Graeme Burton is going to receive a huge ACC payout for losing his leg. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

 
At 31/1/07 4:24 pm, Anonymous Duncan McFarlane said...

Have it on pretty good authority that he will get $150k for permanent disability and do his lag in minimum security as noe of the max security prisons have the facilities to deal with a one legged prisoner...

 
At 31/1/07 4:49 pm, Blogger bomber said...

But to blame the media for this mans actions?
Pitiful.


Anonymous – I try to have a policy of not arguing with people who don’t have the balls to put their name to posts, if everyone posts anonymously, there’s no way to keep a line of argument going. But you’ve put so much effort into you post, I’ll help you out and talk slowly.

I have written a couple of posts on this very site that have talked in detail regarding the Parole issue, and have clearly indicated that is a massive problem – BUT ADDING TO THAT PROBLEM ANONYMOUS (Note Anon how I put those words in big type for you) was the media flury that was created in this case, even the Police tried to pull it back the next day after the weekend papers went nuts and it was lead story – sure the cops wanted info on Burton but they didn’t want to push a dangerous person into a corner where he would end up lashing out if he panicked! Oh and look what bloody happened Anon – he did just that you clown! I suggest that the way the Media carried this story wasn’t responsible and would have had an impact on Burtons behaviour – I AM NOT EXCUSING OR JUSTIFYING HIS ACTIONS – I am saying that the media coverage had an impact – to write off what I’ve had to say simply by saying that I am trying to blame the media is pitiful.

Torpedo-er

Dude get some new jokes, writing off justifiable criticism and willingly keeping yourself ignorant to the issues that create these problems is childish in the extreme, perhaps you would feel more at home visiting kiwiblog?

Oh and as for ACC payouts, how avoidable could that have been if he wasn't released straight from segs into society with no adjustment time - I love how you chaps never focus on that point - because it isn't easy to defend is it chaps?

 
At 31/1/07 4:56 pm, Anonymous Bubbles said...

Would have been just as easy to avoid an ACC Payout by putting another round through his head...lets face it would society be any worse off?

 
At 31/1/07 5:01 pm, Anonymous deano said...

I agree Bubbles. But probably then left-wing academics would have raised hell 'Oh, just because he was armed and resisting, they shouldn't have shot him, blah blah blah...'

 
At 31/1/07 5:28 pm, Anonymous bomber said...

...
Again - so many words and so little meaning - come on Bubbles, Deano - try to actually argue the point rather than screaming 'lefties want to give prisoners free viagra and our daughters addresses' - letting out a man straight from Prison segregation iinto the community - I know you only want to focus on the simple things and not the root causes that you both deride and laugh off, but please - tell me what you would expect from a violent, paranoid person who hasn't had any adjustment time?

 
At 31/1/07 7:43 pm, Anonymous deano said...

I agree with you there Bomber, they should never have let the f*cker out in the first place

 
At 31/1/07 8:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"BUT ADDING TO THAT PROBLEM ANONYMOUS (Note Anon how I put those words in big type for you) was the media flury that was created in this case, even the Police tried to pull it back the next day after the weekend papers went nuts and it was lead story..."

And you know this how?
How do you know the police tried to "pull this back"?
Do you have inside police information bomber?

Are you trying to tell me that a paroled murderer that has just viciously assaulted a man, breached his parole (no-brainer), and has amassed a massive cache of weapons, all points you keep ignoring I might add, you don't think that is going to be headline news in little old New Zealand?

Do you think convicted murderers out on parole stashing weapons and attacking people are a daily occurence?

Of course the media were going to lead with story, BUT that doesn't mean that Burton can then justify his actions by saying;

"shit the fucken media have painted me into a fucken corner and now I have to beat and kill people. If only the fucken media had let me be I would have turned myself in for yet another long lag which I have just spent the last couple of fucken years conning the fuckers to let me go."

He was realeased from prison.
He decided to arm himself with guns/knives/flak jackets etc...
and it is he who decided to assault someone.
Burton had no intention of handing himself into the police, he was going out all guns blazing.

The fact that you have decided to take the Police line in the fallout between Governmental Departments in who is responsible for this tragedy is quite interesting though.

 

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