The Dim-Post

June 28, 2010

Rock bottom

Filed under: crime — danylmc @ 5:01 pm

My attitude towards penal reform is based on the assumption that some day I’ll end up in prison. I’m not sure how this will come about – I never break any laws let alone any that might invite a custodial sentence. It’s just a gut feeling I have about the future.

Seen from this perspective most of Judith Collins’ prison reforms are pretty terrible: especially the double bunking and cells in shipping containers. But as a non-smoker the new policy to ban cigarettes is pretty good news for me when my time comes. Being forced to share a cell with a chain smoker would be the worst.

Well . . . maybe not the worst. Far from it. But still pretty bad.

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45 Comments »

  1. I just about puked when I heard her explain this as motivated by concern for the welfare of Corrections staff. Where was that concern when double-bunking came up? Perhaps an enterprising person could make an OIA request to find out what advice she has been given about the number of extra deaths predicted from second hand smoke exposure vs extra assaults in understaffed prisons with double-bunked cells.

    Cynical people might suspect that putting the boot into prisoners a bit harder is the real reason. Especially given that Garth McVicar has come out in favour.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — June 28, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Which reminds me, Danyl: before you worry about sharing a cell with a smoker, you should just worry about sharing a cell. While Collins is very concerned about your second-hand smoke exposure, she doesn’t give a rats’ about your risk of assault by a cellmate.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — June 28, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

  3. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think if you’re a non-smoker then you have a right not to be put in a cell with a smoker anyway. So all you’d have to worry about is that Mongie who’s going to kick the shit out of you daily, at least until you can persuade your missus it’s good for your health to sneak in ten points of P for you.

    Comment by dontsurf — June 28, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

  4. People who don’t want to get assaulted while in prison should do everything they can to not end up in prison. Not breaking the law would be a sensible start.

    Danyl, you should think about penal reform not from the standpoint that you will one day be in there, but that jails contain society’s worst people and that they deserve to be kept in conditions that you would be unhappy in.

    Comment by radar — June 28, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

  5. @radar: “Danyl, you should think about penal reform not from the standpoint that you will one day be in there, but that jails contain society’s worst people and that they deserve to be kept in conditions that you would be unhappy in.”

    Exactly what actions/policies are ruled out by this standpoint? Isn’t it pretty much an excuse to do whatever you want to prisoners?

    In other words, why not just apply Occam’s razor and say “it is permissible to apply any policy whatsoever to prisoners, without any need to justify it.”

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 28, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  6. Radar has a valid point that doesn’t warrant trying to twist it 360 degrees by misapplying Occam’s Razor.

    Comment by davy crockett — June 28, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  7. jails contain society’s worst people and that they deserve to be kept in conditions that you would be unhappy in.

    Both assertions in that sentence are far from settled matters of fact.

    Anyway, if you think enduring physical violence is actually a proper part of a sentence, then surely it should be carried out in an orderly way by state officials, not administered randomly by convicted criminals. Have the courage of your convictions and advocate bringing back the lash if that’s what you really think.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — June 28, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  8. Danyl, you should think about penal reform not from the standpoint that you will one day be in there, but that jails contain society’s worst people and that they deserve to be kept in conditions that you would be unhappy in.

    Comment by radar

    You could go to jail for being slightly over the limit behind the wheel; or up to five years inside because of one momentary distraction at the wheel. You could be planted with P on a revenge trip. You could engage in a night of what you think is casual, consensual sex and end up slapped with a rape charge.

    Don’t pretend you’re the superior being because you’ve never been to prison. They’re not all recidivists, rapists, murderers and career criminals. You could end up there in the same circumstances as a lot of those inmates – mistakes, and not thinking about what they’re doing.

    You’re obviously well up on the not thinking part, so you need to be more careful about this than Danyl, I reckon.

    Comment by dontsurf — June 28, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

  9. People who don’t want to get assaulted while in prison should do everything they can to not end up in prison. Not breaking the law would be a sensible start.

    Funny you should mention that, make on little mistake while driving and your inside. Chase a tagger, get in a fight or shoot a burglar some times the human condition comes up hard against the law and bingo caged heat and second hand smoke. Jails actually contain lots of societies mentally ill, stupid, unlucky and the worst people. Crushing more cars is the answer…

    Comment by andy (the other one) — June 28, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

  10. Right then, davy … let’s have your defence of razor’s valid point.

    And if you twist something 360 degrees … you haven’t changed it. Unless it’s someone’s head. Then it would probably come off. Which would be messy.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 28, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  11. This will cheer up Rodney and McVicar.

    Since when has any national minister given a toss about staff welfare?
    Especially public servants! (parasites on the tax payer, y’know)

    The “second hand smoke” idea has always been based on extremely dodgy “studies”.

    Who are the spinmeisters behind this load of codswallop?

    J Collins a caring Minister? Yeah right!

    This is just another exercise in kicking prisoners in the guts.

    I can just hear the red necks cheering!

    Is that the sound of an approaching election I can hear in the distance?

    Comment by peterlepaysan — June 28, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

  12. The jails are filled with people who have committed a crime while on drugs …………….. the drug is usually booze and that particular drug is behind a lot of violence. I dont really have much of a problem with violent boozers being locked up.

    Those in jail for other drugs are usually there for the manufacture, importation or selling of them.

    So the legal drug causes lots of violent crime and prison inmates.

    The illegal drugs create crime and criminals through prohibition.

    Prohibition is like steroids for the growth of crime.

    We could slash our prison numbers and criminality in this country.

    Its a shame we are heading in the opposite direction where we will never have enough prisons ………………………..

    Comment by nz native — June 28, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

  13. “People who don’t want to get assaulted while in prison should do everything they can to not end up in prison. Not breaking the law would be a sensible start.”

    pity Arthur Allan Thomas never thought of that ;-)

    Comment by kahikatea — June 28, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  14. Andrew, it may end up facing the same way but it has been twisted – get it.

    Hows Occam going for you?

    Comment by davy crockett — June 28, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

  15. Radar appears to miss a very simple point.

    Being sent to prison is the sentence.

    What happens in the prison is not part of the sentence.

    What happens in the prison is the responsibility of the Minister of Corrections.

    Being a Jew/ Gypsy/ Alien/ irritant was sufficient evidence for the Nazis to send people to
    concentration camps.

    What happened to them after incarceration was nothing to do with government.

    Yeah Right!

    What happens after incarceration matters.

    Even the countries that use caning stipulate it in the sentence.

    Radar should live up to his/hers name and develop antennae.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — June 28, 2010 @ 7:38 pm

  16. Pretty good. “One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.” razor’s use of the categories “worst” and “deserve” unnecessarily complicate his position.

    Now 0 you got your defence for razor’s “valid point” yet, or just footling about here?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 28, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  17. Andy, you invoked Occam in order to slap Radars point down, if you consider Radars original point you’d have noticed that he was making few assumptions in suggesting that by not breaking the law you have the best chance of avoiding prison.

    Meet you in the bike sheds later if you fancy footling, I’m just not a exhibitionist kinda guy.

    Comment by davy crockett — June 28, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  18. “People who don’t want to get assaulted while in prison should do everything they can to not end up in prison. Not breaking the law would be a sensible start.”

    An addition to the other arguments against it this viewpoint undermines a central tenet of the criminal justice system: that punishment be considered, proportional to the crime and administered by the state.

    If you have a young kid in prison for some property crime and they get raped every day, and a gang member in prison for a serious violent offence and they don’t then you don’t have a very just justice system – because you’ve delegated partial control of it to the prisoners themselves.

    Comment by danylmc — June 28, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  19. Now we talk of cause and effect, and fairness Dan. Granted your hypothetical scenario doesn’t sound fair, you could argue that a property crime, say B&E, against an 85 year old woman who now lives in fear every night is not fair either. How do you balance the need for justice, punishment and ‘fairness’ in a society?

    Comment by davy crockett — June 28, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  20. Andy, you invoked Occam

    I don’t know who this Occam dude is and if he has my razor and I catch him….and get off my lawn! Dam kids these days.

    Comment by andy (the other one) — June 28, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  21. davy,

    And if YOU were a bit more honest, you’d recognise my argument was entirely aimed at razor’s final claims about how prisoners ought to be treated once incarcerated. After all, it’s pretty pointless to argue against a tautology (“if you want to stay out of jail, do not commit crimes”). And when stripped of unnecessary verbiage, razor advocates that prisoners should get whatever comes to them in jail – which is whatever we feel like dishing out to them at any given point in time. As you described this as being a “valid point”, I once again invite your defence of that claim – while also suggesting that your silence on it so far makes it appear bit like, well … you know … you don’t have anything really very interesting to say.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 28, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  22. What DM said at 18.

    nz native at 12:
    “So the legal drug causes lots of violent crime and prison inmates. The illegal drugs create crime and criminals through prohibition.”
    Hmm, I’m sure your second point is partially wrong and should go something like this: “violent predatory types are drawn to illegal drugs due to the huge profits on offer.”

    Comment by Clunking Fist — June 28, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  23. You should be concerned, some of your writing is criminally funny.

    Comment by x — June 28, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  24. DM, what are the chances that you HAVE actually broken a law, but neither you, nor anyone else, noticed?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — June 28, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

  25. How do you balance the need for justice, punishment and ‘fairness’ in a society?

    I think you’ve got a better chance of getting this right with a system in which we have trials, judges, sentencing guidelines etc than a system where you throw all the prisoners together in a big cage and let them run amok.

    Comment by danylmc — June 28, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

  26. “How do you balance the need for justice, punishment and ‘fairness’ in a society?”

    That’s a difficult question, but I’m pretty sure “let prisoners live in fear of beatings from other prisoners” doesn’t form any part of the answer.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — June 28, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

  27. Radar has a valid point in suggesting the best way to avoid the negative effects of being in prison is to, like, you know, not get there in the first place. No-one in this little interchange of pleasantry suggested that prisoners should get whatever comes to them in jail but you use Occam to twist Radars words completely and say “when stripped of unnecessary verbiage, razor (sic, Radar?)advocates that prisoners should get whatever comes to them in jail – which is whatever we feel like dishing out to them at any given point in time”, at no time did Radar, or myself, make or imply this argument so, like, you know … silence on that front is all your attempts at verbal bullying warrants.

    Comment by davy crockett — June 28, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

  28. Oh – glad you’ve cleared all that up, davy. When radar (yes – my error) says “People who don’t want to get assaulted while in prison should do everything they can to not end up in prison”, followed by “they deserve to be kept in conditions that you would be unhappy in”, and then you say “Radar has a valid point”, it’s my silly fault for misconstruing this as supporting a position where there should be no limits on the treatment of prisoners.

    But seeing as you’re feeling so “bullied”, I’ll stop picking on you with logic and your own words.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 28, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

  29. Andy, the comment “they deserve to be kept in conditions that you would be unhappy in” does not mean or state, unless it’s in your special world, that “there should be no limits on the treatment of prisoners”.

    I did say attempted bullying for, like, a reason dude.

    Comment by davy crockett — June 28, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

  30. Nice attempted recovery, but I’m happy to take this one on points.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 28, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

  31. i was going to make a comment on this but i can’t really be arsed… it’s just so plainly a dogwhistle policy as to make us all dogs or, on the other hand, a contradiction in terms… [get it?... it's all in my ellipses and hypophora]

    collins further explained in some news report or other that we don’t supply alcoholics with alcohol or tweakers with p why should we supply smokers with nictotine?… oh wait, now we will have to supply smokers with nicotine…

    and as for the potential lawsuits… well where are these? oh i know, here they come when the human rights arguments come out about cruel and unusual punishment….

    ‘build them and they will come’ should be this minister’s catch phrase

    Comment by matthew — June 28, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

  32. I’m sure you would be happy to take it on points Andy. I’m happy to disagree.

    Comment by davy crockett — June 28, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

  33. Danyl, from your claim never to have broken the law I have to assume you’ve never driven a motor vehicle. There’s also a huge raft of laws that a lot of people are unaware of and that are rarely enforced. Look at the jaywalking laws, for instance, or the drug laws (an open bottle of alcohol in public is oten problematic, for example). Then there’s offences like threatening behvaiour and offensive language that might see the blogosphere cleaned right up. I suspect that if one day all the road laws were rigorously enforced we’d see most drivers in prison for accumulating too many points on their licenses too quickly (how many 0-10km/h over the limit offenses does it take to do that, anyway?)

    Count me in favour of the legal system setting the punishment up front, especially for victims of crime, but also for convicted criminals. Public shaming should be a bigger part of it, perhaps more for the offenders and less for the victims, but it’s definitely an important part. Likewise time in prison, fines and so on.

    Comment by moz — June 28, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

  34. No worries, davy. The beauty of these blog comment threads is it gives everyone the freedom to be wrong without consequences. You make fine use of this.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — June 28, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

  35. What’s so bad about double bunking? Ronnie Barker did it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3dO-itjWtI

    Comment by Vibenna — June 28, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

  36. While Andrew won on points, Davy deserves credit considering his position was ludicrous and he doesn’t know the meaning of the word “valid”.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — June 29, 2010 @ 4:38 am

  37. Why bother listening to what was actually said when you can flip a lazy razor off the wrist instead eh Andy.

    But when you ‘just know’ what people really mean I guess it’s frustrating for you.

    Comment by davy crockett — June 29, 2010 @ 7:40 am

  38. Davy, you should consider the possibility that no one is interested in your ridiculous opinions.

    Comment by Vic Mackey — June 29, 2010 @ 7:46 am

  39. We’re reading (those of us who can), not listening.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — June 29, 2010 @ 8:02 am

  40. I was interested to note the apparent stat that two thirds of the prison population smoke. You could have an extrapolative interpretation field day with that one if you were inclined.

    Comment by samm — June 29, 2010 @ 10:19 am

  41. Interestingly, a person involved in Canada’s version of the prison officers’ union was interviewed on Mike Hosking’s breakfast show this morning. Canada brought in a no-smoking policy for prisons two years ago, which led to appeals by some prisoners which have just been quashed.

    The spokesperson said that the stories in NZ’s media pretty much mirror what Canada’s media ran when the no-smoking policy was mooted. According to him, there ended up being no significant problems in their prisons as a result of the ban – which he attributed to a lot of groundwork and careful planning in the lead-up to it.

    As I understand it, that’s one of the concerns of NZ’s prison officers: That the ban will be brought in as quickly as double-bunking was, rather than being implemented well.

    Comment by Ataahua — June 29, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  42. Well all razors (Occam’s or otherwise) have to be handed back now so we can disregard that little point.

    I’ve never understood the difference between double-bunking and the flatting style units that many prisons have. Seems like much ado about very little to me.

    Comment by Conrad — June 29, 2010 @ 10:44 am

  43. This at least seems to have gone down well with the more lauranorder types at my work: “I don’t think prisoners in jail should have any rights at all. Never mind the Geneva Convention or whatever.”

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — June 29, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

  44. “he attributed to a lot of groundwork and careful planning in the lead-up to it.”
    So our prison officers could be a bit f@*ked then.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — June 29, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

  45. I agree double bunking is undesirable but shipping container cells are perfectly livable.

    I think people have this idea that they are actual shipping containers with a door cut in the side and a bucket to shit in. The containers are just used as a base for the construction and the interior or exterior is not that different from any other modern prison. They are certainly more livable than Mt Eden or some of the older prisons in New Zealand.

    Here’s a photo:

    Comment by No — June 29, 2010 @ 4:13 pm


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