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.