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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

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.
Leave granted.

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!


At 1/8/06 11:36 pm, Blogger Cactus Kate said...

Some great interaction there, especially from Keith Locke. Classic stuff. Although an entire waste of taxpayer money....again.

At 1/8/06 11:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I understand Simon Power is coming from the position that prison should be so punitive that inmates are not allowed to write for or contribute to a blog (via Martyn or anyone else), this degree of control of free speeech is embarassing from National.

Traditionally it has been the left that has controlled, censored and manipulated expression. Clark's position fits her ideology. But for National to do it, come on Simon, this is very silly and casts a bad light on National, which generally advocates freedom.

All that has been achieved is many more visits to a blog he is clearly uncomfortable with.

What a waste of valuable Parliamentary questions, National needs to be sticking it to the government not racing off on these tangents. Who on earth approved these questions?

At 2/8/06 12:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few years ago at Paremoremo Unit 6 a crim has a very lucrative business sending out letter sex - this was before phone and internet sex became the big things.

His girlfriend used to bring in the replies to the classified ads they had and he spent the rest of the week writing the replies posing and Mandy, Trudy et.al

Very few crims letters are actually read by staff, some staff can barely read so it would be a bit tricky for them, many letters are written in languages other than English, they are never read.

However ‘Mandys’ letters provided a lot of entertainment to the staff in that unit, some of the staff would read them for hours, that was when they took a break from the porn that entertained them most of the time. This was when Shipley was PM.

One Chinese drug dealer used to send out between 10 and 20 ‘letters’ a day, they consisted of a few large Chinese characters on a page and sometimes a cutting from Chinese newspapers. Even though the rules say crims are supposed to pay there own postage (I think they get a small free allowance) these letters were allowed out everyday, never checked and the prison paid all the postage. Occasionally a staff member would quiery them but the unit manager always allowed the mail to go.

By the way crims also reply to loney hearts ads - a unit 1 crim got himself a wife that way.

At 2/8/06 5:42 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A really interesting article, thanks, which gives a real insight into people's attitudes and approach to those incarcerated in prison.

At 2/8/06 7:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whatever is going on, my support for Tim is increased by recent events,
the situation here with regard to native Indian in the You narted States of Armerarka is very interesting, probably Tim will know, but these land deals here seem to be working

At 2/8/06 7:32 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Selwyn should "alongside the road shackled together in chain-gangs breaking rock singing gospel spirituals" he is a convicted criminal; the scum of society. Go Mr Power; I support you all the way. Damn soft Labour. This site should be shut down; and all who runs it, be jailed for been a public nuisance.

At 2/8/06 7:50 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The implied comparison that Mr Locke makes between Mr Selwyn and Mr Mandela is a bit of a long bow, don't you think?

My understanding is that Mr Selwyn used the identities of deceased people (including a baby?) to defraud for the purposes of obtaining a benefit. I also believe that this is the crime for which he is serving the bulk (15 months) of his sentence. I do wonder how the families of those deceased would feel knowing that Mr Selwyn is able to use the internet to publicly criticise the judge, sentence, etc.

Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but I've checked the archives and this appears to be Mr Selwyn's blog, which Bomber is administering while he is inside. My view is that the internet and blogging do present a lot of challenges to existing policies (e.g. name suppression), and that Corrections is a bit behind the times in seeing these letters as simply that. They are clearly intended for publication and need to be viewed in that light.

Thanks for promoting this debate.


At 2/8/06 7:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...........................Hey there are some really good posts here, I think Graham brings up a good point - National shouldn't be pulling stunts like trying to shut this site down - and it says something of the incredibly punitive world view Simon the wunderkid brings to corrections - I also think the above post is telling - 'Damn soft labour. This site should be shut down; and all who runs it, be jailed for been a public nuisance' - this is the thinking we are fighting against - personally I'm amazed someone with that mentality was able to work out turning the computer on - but look at that posting - angry, bitter, ill-educated, National voting, knuckle dragging and reactionary - we don't have anything to be frightened of from them.

At 2/8/06 9:26 am, Blogger Russell Brown said...

I can't help but think that this is all a testament to Tim's ability to create a ruckus - even under lock and key!

Hoping the prison blogs continue. Is Tim interested in a book deal?


At 2/8/06 9:27 am, Blogger Lyndon said...

Don't fret, bomber.

Simon Power told me on Monday he was the "last person to be opposed to freedom of speech".

So that's all right now, isn't it.

(http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0607/S00473.htm if you can stand my unpractised interview styles)

At 2/8/06 9:29 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sent Power an email, I wonder if he's had feedback from supporters and members to drop this stupid line of attack yet. I doubt it. Looks like the classic fob off to me.

Here's my email, and his reply:

Simon, you are well off the pace on Mr Selwyn's prison 'travelogue'.

I am disappointed you aren't campaigning to jam cellphone signals and restrict other uncontrolled uncensored communications from prisons. Selwyn's letters are a vetted, controlled and censored communication channel. Surely
you're not interested in a subjective measure to restrict lawful
communications by prisoners to friends/family through legtimate channels?

Corrections is a mess, but you're barking up the wrong tree.

And it's not just the tree-huggers that think so like that idiot Bradbury.
Have a look at kiwiblog.co.nz -- you're getting a bagging from NATIONAL
party supporters too.

As a National Party supporter I've disappointed and surprised you've made
such a blunder, when Selwyn's missives may actually assist you in exposing
Corrections failing. Don't shoot the messenger.

Please try harder.

Yours Sincerely

REPLY -------

Thank you for your recent email regarding Tim Selwyn's blog.

I appreciate the opportunity to hear your comments on this matter, and will take them into account. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Simon Power

At 2/8/06 9:33 am, Blogger Lyndon said...

I'll add the observation that ("in fairness") since the weekend he has (as far as I know) avoided all mention of actually getting the site shut down.

Possibly because he's realised nothing about the process is illegal or even contrary to corrections policy and that it's actually supported by the Bill of Rights. Or some other reason.

At 2/8/06 10:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me, the total flabergasting waste of taxpayers money on petty hype such as this. Surely our members of parliment have more pressing concerns on their hands at the moment,than opposing freedom of speech which is a fundamental right in this country.

At 2/8/06 10:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Mr Simon Power could answer this question-Do we have a Bill Of Rights in New Zealand Mr Power?
If yes, I suggest Mr Power read it!

At 2/8/06 10:23 am, Blogger stephen said...

how does he think victims would feel if a convicted murderer was allowed to say such things publicly?

Since the victims are dead, I don't expect they would feel anything at all.


But seriously, the criminal justice system does not exist to make victims feel better.

At 2/8/06 12:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, talk about a disproportionate response! I did not advocate shutting down any blogs, and merely suggested that the Corrections Dept cannot view the letter as a private letter. For example, the mainstream media have assumed that the person who was attacked was Roger Kahui, which the Dept have subsequently denied. So there is a public interest issue here.

I do take issue with the notion that Mr Selwyn should be viewed as some sort of martyred political prisoner - he did defraud the taxpayer and under our law that is an imprisonable offence. And I would ask you to think for a minute about what this publicity means for the families of those people whose identities were stolen.

I have never voted National, and I do take some offence at your personal attacks, as I have tried to put my thoughts across without resorting to these sort of reflections. I don't think I'm the angry one here, and as a Maori man I'm proud of my educational achievements and the fact that I have evolved beyond cro-magnon ("knuckle-dragging"? nice one). But I do thank you for the opportunity to put my point across.


At 2/8/06 1:37 pm, Blogger Frank Stupid said...


I think most people aren't so much worrying about Tim getting sent to jail for fraud, or even for putting the axe through the electorate office window. What has quite a few people worried is that Tim was also convicted of sedition, a ridiculous crime if ever there was one (if you haven't already, pop across to Idiot/Savant's blog, http://norightturn.blogspot.com, as he has the best rundown on the history of sedition in NZ). If not for the sedition charge I doubt whether the story would have run this long.

As for comparing Tim to Nelson Mandela - I think the point was that you can't let the potential Mandelas of the world have their free speech without also allowing the Selwyns - and heck, even the Kahuis - the same right. Personally when weighing free speech and publication vs the risk of offending Tim's notional victims, free speech comes up trumps.

At 2/8/06 3:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traditionally it has been the left that has controlled, censored and manipulated expression.

Mm hm, graemewatson, and no other part of the political spectrum has indulged in propoganda, lies or "spin"?

I don't know which planet you've been on, but holding up the National Party (or any other right-wing one) as an example of moral probity is doublethink in the extreme.

As for Tim Selwyn, I don't care whether he writes letters in his own blood, or has occasional access to a computer - I just wish he'd STFU. I don't give a shit about his imprisonment - other than the rank stupidity of the "sedition" conviction - wanton vandalism was such a good way of making political points.

Really, he should be grateful for being convicted, or else no-one other than his little coterie of groupies would have taken the slightest notice of what he has to say.

At 2/8/06 3:46 pm, Blogger Frank Stupid said...

Traditionally it has been the left that has controlled, censored and manipulated expression. - Graham's statements often transcend irony ...

How about we amend that statement: Traditionally it has been the ,powerful that has controlled, censored and manipulated expression. Hell, the weak would do it too, they just lack the means.

At 2/8/06 5:57 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

.................................Mr Stupid, your comments are genius! And Trix, please - under Tim this may have been a right ring alt site, under me its now a left wing alt site - and although we may not appreciate at times Tims view on the world, the principle he is standing up for IS important - and since the publicity the hits to this site have gone through the roof, so at least people are getting to see an alternative to the crap they get in the Mainstream headlines. Anyway, I wouldn't want to read anythuing he wrote in blood, that would be icky

At 2/8/06 5:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Really, he should be grateful for being convicted, or else no-one other than his little coterie of groupies would have taken the slightest notice of what he has to say'
And having looked at trix's blog.... what a load of shit about nothing!
At least Tim's blog makes you think about IMPORTANT things...

At 2/8/06 6:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bomber, I hope the cops read this; you could join Tim in gaol, a sedition charge for you sounds nice. Think then you don’t have to wait days to receive the letters.

Bring back Hanging for sedition! (Then we don’t need to worry about this crap)

At 2/8/06 10:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone ask mr powerless what is the purpose of imprisoning people and and exactly where this is actually written down in law?

At 3/8/06 10:46 am, Blogger Bomber said...

.........................I love the post above which reads "I hope the cops read this site" - what an enlightened little bubble of hate eh folks? Exactly why should the cops arrest anyone visiting or reading this site? Why would reading other peoples opinion be a reason to be imprisoned? Isn't it weird that Anon is allowed to vote? It is us who have to tolerate you Anon, not the other way around.

At 3/8/06 10:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Trix your comments about Tim and STFU - history will be kinder to Tim than the present - in time people will come to see that he is the peoples hero of NZ and that what he stands for will be recorded in the annuals of time - will yours? I think not.... wonder if thats what gets to you?
Go Tim you tell it like it is and keep it real my boy.
Sue In The UK


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