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Saturday, January 05, 2013

The real reason we banned smoking in prisons and more tedious Christmas menu stories

Prisoner Arthur Taylor seeks smoking ban ruling
Career criminal Arthur Taylor will next week seek a High Court ruling to force Corrections to drop their prison smoking ban, having already successfully argued it was unlawful.

On December 20, 2012 Justice Murray Gilbert ruled the nationwide ban which had been in force for 17 months was "unlawful, invalid and of no effect".

But despite the ruling, Corrections said inmates were still forbidden to smoke or possess tobacco related products because the Government changed Corrections regulations classifying them as contraband.

I'm glad Arthur Taylor has taken this case and won. His points are technicalities of law in relation to which prison authority has the power to implement changes in policy. When prisoners have increasingly fewer rights in NZ you can appreciate they will fight for the limited ones they still have, even if it's just being able to light up a ciggie.

What amuses me about this entire affair is that the Government are not honest with the public about the reasons why the smoking ban was implemented in the first place.

If you listen to Corrections Minister Anne Tolley, she's all rainbows and light about the smoking ban in prisons, "The smoking ban in prisons has been a great success and there is no way we are backing away from it. Prisons are safer and healthier places for staff and offenders, and if we need to change the law to maintain this then that is what we will do."

I call 1000% bullshit on that. Since when the bloody hell did the National Party of NZ give two tosses about the health and well being of prisoners? National removed prisoners rights to vote in their first term putting NZ in banana republic territory when it comes to human rights for prisoners, to think National who love to dance the tough on crime jig would ever have a sleepless night over prison conditions is about as believable as ACT Party members arguing for higher taxes on the rich.

National implemented a smoking ban, not because they care about the lungs of prisoners, they implemented the ban because of their double bunking policy. The Government were warned that their double bunking policy could open them to legal action by any prisoner impacted negatively by second hand smoke. This is arse covering due to our very high imprisonment rates.

To pretend to care about the welfare of prisoners when it's really hiding the symptom of our incarceration mentality is a clever trick. Rather than asking why we are double bunking prisoners, the story becomes about prisoner rights. Seeing as most NZers want orange jump-suited prisoners in chain gangs breaking rock while singing gospel tunes, it's a debate that quickly turns into anger at the mere idea prisoners are human beings, let along have any sort of 'rights'.

Nothing sums up this mentality better than the every year tedious news focus on what prisoners will be allowed for dinner on Christmas Day...

For New Zealand's 8500 prisoners Christmas will resemble a day much like any other.

Corrections Services General Manager Brendan Anstiss said prisoners would receive their normal Sunday dinner for lunch on Christmas Day and it would by no means be "lavish".

"The meal will be prepared as usual, overseen by catering instructors and cooked by prisoners in the facilities' kitchens. This way prisoners can actively participate in the day and learn skills to help them with their rehabilitation," he said.

Lunch will consist of a serving of roast chicken, roast potatoes, carrots and peas with apple pie and custard for dessert, while dinner will be sandwiches they would normally have for lunch.

...note that it's not a story about how those locked up can't see family on Christmas Day and how much a punishment not being able to share the holiday season with whanau must be, oh no, it's those bloody prisoners being able to eat a bit of roast chook when they should only be allowed a cup of cold sick with some warm gravel for Christmas.

The mainstream media have whipped crime porn into a headline entertainment monster that serves to only frighten and anger the masses so that hate ends up warping social policy.

How many times could the news media last year breathlessly refer to Stewart Murray Wilson as the 'beast of Blenheim'? Was the use of that moniker a sober assessment of the issues involved in releasing sex offenders or was it hysterical bullshit to boost ratings?

Banning smoking has nothing to do with looking after prisoner health, it's to legally cover the arse of the Government for their double bunking policy. Rather than ask hard questions about our high incarceration culture, the Government can rely on the media generated anger towards prisoners to blind any actual debate.



At 5/1/13 9:09 am, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

Don't forget disenfranchising short sentence inmates too.

At 6/1/13 2:43 pm, Blogger countryboy said...

excellent post . To find the beast , just follow the tentacles .



And imagine having a fool like Tolly in charge of broken people . Jesus wept !

At 7/1/13 1:35 pm, Blogger Frank said...

"The mainstream media have whipped crime porn into a headline entertainment monster that serves to only frighten and anger the masses so that hate ends up warping social policy. "

The truth of this is easily shown. Just watch TV1 and or TV3 News at 6pm. The leading news stories will usually be crime/police/court stories.

A couple of days ago, TV3 led with,

1. The Waihi killing
2. A shooting
3. homicide of a 27 year old
4. a computer sketch of the attacker of a 62 year old woman in Nelson

For good measurem just to really put a dampener on New Years' festivities and holiday joy, the next two stories involved,

5. flooding on the West Coast; a bridge half-destroyed; internet cable down (interviewing the telco repair guy in his work-van, complete with pin-ups of nudie women plastered on his vehicle wall)

6. The growing risk of Aussie bush fires.

News of the anti-asset sales petition gaining sufficient signatures ranked #7.

But it wasn't long before the TV news returned to crime/violence, with,

10. The horrific rape and murder of the Indian woman
11. A follow up story on the Sandy Hook school mass shooting.

Watching the news on TV(especially over the Holiday period) should carry a mental health warning...

At 7/1/13 6:59 pm, Blogger Surviver said...

Having worked in a prison for 5 years I wish there had been a smoking ban then.

Interesting that you talk a lot about the department (in your view) not caring about the health of inmates but make no mention about the health of staff. Most people are able to have a smoke-free workplace, I am pleased to see that those working in prisons now have that same right. Defending smoking in any environment – are you serious.

You also show sadness that there are no family visits on Christmas Day, so you don't care that having visits would require many more staff to work on Christmas day, guess their families don't matter.

There are good reasons not to have Christmas day visits. Many family members (especially female partners) remain scared and controlled even after the men they are fearful of are locked up.

At least let them have Christmas day off without being afraid what will happen (at some stage) if they dare to be 15 minutes late on Christmas day.

Have you even been to a visiting day at Auckland prison, have you seen how some inmates behave towards those who visit them, many completely ignore their children. Much better for children to be with family who are not in jail.

As for Arthur bloody Taylor - please spare me.


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