A disaster averted?

January 3rd, 2009 at 9:46 am by David Farrar

The prisoner who stabbed another inmate because he scared a cat was being prepared for release as he was in a standalone self-care unit.

The Dom Post reveals he was convicted of murder and rape in 1987 and been refused on eight occasions. Obviously someone in authority had thought 21 years was enough and signals had been sent he would get in the near future.

If the alleged stabbing is accurate, then he would have almost certainly offended once he released – maybe even killing again.

Most disturbing is this:

Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon said guards had raised concerns about McKinley for six months. The victim could have died if a third inmate had not intervened.

Corrections Department support service manager Karen Urwin said she was not aware of any staff concerns about inmates in the self-care unit. The department would investigate whether the inmates were “appropriately placed”.

It sounds like the Burton case all over again. The actual prison guards knew he was a bad sort likely to offend, yet this neer makes it way through to management or those who make the decisions.

If I was the Minister, I’d want an inquiry or at the minimum a report into how this happened.

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32 Responses to “A disaster averted?”

  1. dad4justice (8,313 comments) says:

    This is so typical as the Department Corrections, which is nothing more than a bungled bureaucratic jungle of insanity. When will guards who house these creeps 24/7 be allowed to speak their views on various prisoners come parole board time? Surely the screws who know each individual better than anyone else does and they of all people should know whether it’s appropriate to release an offender back into the community. You can’t con a con, but devious criminals regularly con the pc dickheads and psycho nutbars on the parole board.

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  2. Turpin (342 comments) says:

    Maybe giving the power to keep people in to the guards by always asking for information before any parole board and prosecuting at all times any attacks or threats on guards, will give them back the power the management has taken away from them in dealing with their charges.

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  3. dad4justice (8,313 comments) says:

    Turpin – guards are manacled by nonsense politically correct procedure. The frustration is evident in the prison that I will visit this afternoon. Meaningless management show little common sense and concern for the community.

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  4. Michael E (274 comments) says:

    I’ve been told informally by a guard that another murderer in Rimutaka (who is due for his third parole hearing in the last six months next week) shouldn’t be released as he still doesn’t think he has done anything wrong – he admitted what he did, but just thinks it was bad circumstances rather than his poor choices that put him in that situation that night.

    But becuase he has behaved himself, and has ticked all the right boxes he will probably get released. And he may not reoffend, but he will continue to make poor choices – and could end up in that situation again.

    The guards know what is what, and who will be back. They should be able to have input into the parole process.

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  5. cha (4,084 comments) says:

    So CTU President Helen Kelly voicing an opinion is headed as Stupidity but Corrections Association president Beven Hanlons opinion is headed A disaster averted.

    [DPF: Well her opinion was stupid while his one was not. Not all opinions are equal]

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  6. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    cha. that appears to be the case. what’s your point?

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  7. cha (4,084 comments) says:

    My point Patrick Starr is that Farrar has post after post bagging unions and yet when it suits he appears to have no problems taking Hanlons opinion as gospel.

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  8. MT_Tinman (3,263 comments) says:

    Much better would be to cancel parole completely, make criminals complete the entire sentence and instead institute time added on for misbehavior.

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  9. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    cha, Are you saying DPF should not have agreed with Hanlons point of view on a non-industrial issue simply because he’s a unionist?

    [DPF: He seems to have a problem with the fairly simple concept of agreeing with someone if their views are ones you agree with, and disagreeing with them when you umm disagree. He seems to think you have to be always for or always against – how peculiar]

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  10. joeAverage (311 comments) says:

    Hell if he reacts like this over a mangy moggy ,think of the reaction over an american cocker spaniel :)

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  11. Oswald Bastable (32 comments) says:

    Hell, we used to take bets on how long it would take before an inmate would return!

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  12. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    Cha would prefer KB to be biased to the LEFT.

    It is called the Standard, so run along little boy/girl and have your opinion confirmed by the Myopics over there!

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  13. cha (4,084 comments) says:

    cha, Are you saying DPF should not have agreed with Hanlons point of view on a non-industrial issue simply because he’s a unionist?

    If he’s singing from Nationals song sheet I’d expect the usual four legs good two legs bad, but no, more like some animals are more equal than others

    BTW, since when have union opinions been taken into account regarding operational matters.

    [DPF: I find when people have expectations of others to react a certain way, that is because how they react.]

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  14. baxter (893 comments) says:

    MrTINMAN……….What you state is logical and economical and would have the support of 90% of the population so it will probably never happen.

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  15. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    Cha, you are being disingenuous. DPF is perfectly entitled to base his opinions on the content of the comment rather than the occupation of the commentater. To criticise as you have done is just plain stupid.

    With regards the prisoner, the Parole Act says that “offenders must not be detained any longer than is consistent with the safety of the community”. But it is pretty damn obvious that someone who is acting in this way over something as insignificant as a cat must be a real risk to the safety of the community. That said, after 21 years the institutionalisation of the prisoner will be significant. That has inherent problems in itself, as they have existed for so long in a place where violence and intimidation is the norm. Weaning long term prisoners away from that system is not always easy.

    The problem with parole is simply that it is a very inconsistent process. Much depends on the particular board (and especially the Judge chairing the board) that you come up against. Also whether the prisoner gets on with the prison officer who writes their release programme. Often at Parole Boards I have had people refused parole when I thought they should get out and then people who I personally would never let out are given parole!

    You do get a pretty good idea about your client if you take some time to talk to the corrections officers in his/her unit. They work with them on a daily basis and have a very good idea of how the prisoner is doing. David is right in saying that this particular case does look like Burton all over again. An overhaul not of the law itself (which is mostly ok) but more the process by which the Parole Board forms its opinion would be a great start.

    Much better just not to do parole work. Then any bad decisions become an SEP (somebody else’s problem).

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  16. reid (16,634 comments) says:

    “An overhaul not of the law itself (which is mostly ok) but more the process by which the Parole Board forms its opinion would be a great start.”

    What about the composition of board members, F E? I’ve wondered sometimes about professional juries, you probably wouldn’t agree with that, but what are the qualities, qualifications and entry criteria for people who serve on parole boards?

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  17. Put it away (2,880 comments) says:

    Like most on the left, Cha is not able to comprehend thought processes that take into account common sense and reality, and is assumes others act entirely on dogma the way he does. He is probably genuinely puzzled that an idea can be evaluated on its merits, and not exclusively on the “right-on ness” of the person who said it.

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  18. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    Reid: The board members sometimes come from the most surprising sources, apparently to have some ‘community’ input. The Chair of each Board is always a District Court Judge, some of whom are very good and apply themselves to each case, while others see their job as keeping as many prisoners in as possible. I am pretty sure which one most people would support!

    But the other two members of the board are lay people from various parts of the community. Have a look at http://www.paroleboard.govt.nz/about-us/whos-who.html and scroll down past all of the judges to see the bio’s of the lay people.

    A professional jury wouldn’t worry me at all, although it would seem to simply be a larger version of what happens now. So long as each case is looked at on its merits and with full information. The problem today is often found in those who write the reports for the Board are not involved in the unit where the prisoner is housed. I would be more inclined to have a report writer or two for each unit, rather than a person working in the admin block. Often release programmes are very unrealistic. Or otherwise there are restrictions on the courses a prisoner can do, for example if Corrections is having an argument with a particular provider, or just not paying their bills, then the prisoner misses out.

    Sadly there is no real answer to this one. Criminals will always re-offend to some extent. That said, a huge literacy campaign and some decent drug & alcohol rehab would be a good start. But some people will always be a danger and there is no real way to deal with them except give them preventive detention.

    Not sure I agree with Tinman. All that would happen is that sentences would be cut to take into account the lack of parole. Just like they got longer when the one third parole rule came in.

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  19. KiwiGreg (3,260 comments) says:

    Per stuff he is a previous escappe who has been deined parole 8 times already. How many bites at the cherry do you get?

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  20. Brian Smaller (4,026 comments) says:

    FE Smith “Not sure I agree with Tinman. All that would happen is that sentences would be cut to take into account the lack of parole. Just like they got longer when the one third parole rule came in.”

    Why does there have to be an automatic cut in sentence length to compensate the lack of parole? One doesn’t necessarily follow the other, unless the government of the day believes that prison is there to rehabilitate and not to punish people.

    I would suggest that if the general public saw criminals getting serious jail time, there would be serious support for it. While crimes of passion and spur of the moment offences will not be deterred, it might make the odd career criminal think twice. If it doesn’t and when they finally get caught, getting 8 or 10 years for stealing a DVD player from a house might become to be seen as a bad swap by other potential crims.

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  21. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    “BTW, since when have union opinions been taken into account regarding operational matters.”

    since YOU made the association and drew attention to it

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  22. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    There doesn’t necessarily have to be a cut in sentence length. Just state so clearly when you amend the law. But judges will always take into account the time likely to be served, whether they say so overtly or not. It is just human nature. You might also want to increase the maximum penalties available for sentencing on the various crimes.

    Longer jail time is fine. I am not one who holds that prison should be rehabilitative, I think it is punitive and the rehab is very much a side issue. But if you want longer sentences overall then you must be prepared to pay for it as there will need to be a drastic increase in the prison budget. Of course, if you are getting 8 or 10 years for a burglary or theft (of the dvd player, in your example) then should we also up the sentences for serious violence, rape, murder and so on?

    I don’t pretend to know the answer to that one. Really, I can’t say I care too much. I am not so blind as to think most of my clients aren’t deserving of punishment. But I would prefer something that works a bit more at the cause of the problem rather than try to cure it through deterrence. Because the thought of prison doesn’t deter quite some number of people. And not because it is an easy time, but because people who commit crimes generally don’t think about prison when they do them. Look at the bloke who is the subject of the thread- 21 years inside and he still offends.

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  23. calendar girl (1,270 comments) says:

    “Have a look at http://www.paroleboard.govt.nz/about-us/whos-who.html and scroll down past all of the judges to see the bio’s of the lay people. A professional jury wouldn’t worry me at all, although it would seem to simply be a larger version of what happens now.”

    There are 21 judicial members and 15 non-judicial members. The notes on members of the non-judicial group suggest nothing close to a reasonable cross-section of the community. Overwhelmingly the members are professionals or past-professionals in social sciences and social services. Two-thirds of them have past experience or associations with aspects probation, parole or the corrections service. And this is in addition to the 21 judges who must inevitably be regarded as “insiders”.

    Let’s not pretend that the make-up of the present Parole Board (more accurately a series of panels, in practice) allows it to apply a significant degree of independent, lay person perspective to decisions on parole. The credentials and professional interests of the participants make that unlikely, if not impossible.

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  24. reid (16,634 comments) says:

    “Criminals will always re-offend to some extent.” and “I would prefer something that works a bit more at the cause of the problem rather than try to cure it through deterrence.”

    I can’t understand F E, why Parliament hasn’t found a way to identify and target the 5% who do the 90% or whatever the actual is. I mean it’s freakin obvious that by intervening at 5 years old you stop the rot.

    Duh.

    Unfortunately PC Psychobabble rears its head and says “mustn’t target people, that’s discwimination.”

    Why can’t these dolts see that you need to intervene to stop the violence, abuse and envy and anger forming in children and that doing so is a greater good overall than it is to let the cycle continue. Anything less is playing at the margins and will never solve the issue.

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  25. fredinthegrass (274 comments) says:

    reid – no-one doubts the benefits of education at the cause of the problem when it comes to the very young.
    What we do with the ‘current crop’ is a totally different matter.
    We trust the guards to ‘care’ for the inmates. Why dont we listen to them at release time?
    We appoint judges who only give a sentence to a criminal after considerable deliberation.
    Why do we review this sentence?
    Time off for good behaviour is a total anathema when the level of reoffending is as high as it is.

    Done the crime – DO the Time

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  26. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    We know exactly who they are, Reid, but to say that the welfare state is to blame for most of our criminal class is a very unpopular thing to say. True, but unpopular. You don’t even need to intervene for the most part of it, just stop encouraging the cycle of abuse and crime that welfare promotes. Simple as that. I would estimate that over 80% of my criminal clientele (as opposed to the drink drivers, who have other problems) are on the benefit. Many for no real reason at all.

    But as you say, the PC brigade start telling us off because we are being discriminatory. Don’t forget that a large part of Labour’s voting base comes from those on welfare. Or maybe that is coincidental, I don’t know….

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  27. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    Incredible… it seems at times you must have to fail an IQ test to become a prison administrator. In contrast, prison officers fall into three groups:

    – some who see it as a vocation and want to make a difference. That would include taking an active role in guding the Parole Poard on release. It sees them struggling against moribund management and ridiculous rules to actually improve prisoners’ attitudes, skills and personalities while in their charge. I owe my freedom today to just such a CO (and an SO, who gave him considerable leeway as to time) who literally forced my “defence” lawyer to arrange bail.

    – some who see their job as simply enforcing the rules and do so with no malice, but also with no creativity, judgment or even common sense. An example would be the CO who decided to enforce the rule (which no one had ever been told about, incidentally) that cells doors had to be all the way open or all the way closed. If they had to be open so COs could see in, that’s understandable. But since having it closed was permitted, whatever the reason was for a rule against having it partly open, it defied common sense which is probably why no one had even heard of it. But no, this guy came on duty and his first order of business was to walk round depriving of privileges everyone whose door angle didn’t fit the rule. They tend to be the ones that look puzzled when prisoners show signs of aggravation.

    – A tiny minority who probably got picked on at school and – like some cops, parking wardens and anyone else drawn to a uniform and a smattering of power – see it as a way to get back at the world. I have only ever met two who’d fit this description, which gives you some idea of their proportion in relation to the rest. Of the other two categories it seems to be about 70% “time servers” and 30% committed professionals – a pretty good ratio when you consider they’re squeezed between prisoners and the dopes in administration.

    OTOH I have only ever met two people in state prison administration for whom I could summon the least bit of respect (and a much higher ratio in the administration of privately run prisons, which may say something…)

    In the main they seem to see their role as to impede anything occuring which may improve conditions within the prison for staff and/or prisoners, to resist any attempt at community engagement, and to dig in and defend any error rather than accept and learn from it. True, these attributes can be found in the management of many state run enterprises as maurieo points out, but it seems utterly endemic to prisons.

    Without wanting to make this too long, it’s worth noting that the prison superintendent who impressed me most – who left me wanting to take her on an international speaking tour – was a woman whose first job was in the maximum security wing of a mens’ prison at a time when COs didn’t even have personal duress alarms. Yet she now runs a prison that treats inmates as human beings and has a recidivism rate of just 17% compared with around 40% for other prisons. I don’t know the background of the others I’ve met – who would not look out of place in the set of “Gliding On” – but I’ll wager that few if any have had a uniform on their back.

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  28. big bruv (14,165 comments) says:

    Rex

    As usual your posts are interesting and raise some good points, however you would be one of the few former inmates (sorry to raise that but I must to make my point) who could be classed as a reasonable chap.
    I know a couple of screws and both of them look at it as nothing more than a job and one that some days means nothing more than surviving, I know in my case I could not summon the energy or will to be civil to some of the low life who inhabit our prisons, given the shocking recidivist rates I think most would find it sole destroying even bothering to try and help most of the prisoners.

    While I do sympathise with the situation you faced I am sure that you understand how so many screws simply see it as a way of feeding their families and a job they can only do if they leave their compassion and personalities in the locker room, I guess in many ways it is similar to the inmates in as much as the biggest battle they face is simply getting through the day.

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  29. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    “[DPF: I find when people have expectations of others to react a certain way, that is because how they react.]”

    yep, the left wing colophon. NEVER tolerate an opposites viewpoint

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  30. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    big bruv:

    No problem with your referring to history. It just tends to upset me when it’s done innaccurately and with malice. And especially when it’s done by a snivelling gutless little hypocrite (And how is the used-to-be Ron Mark, I wonder? Offers flocking to his door to make use of his giant intellect, no doubt).

    Believe me I wouldn’t be a CO if it was the last job on earth, as you simply can’t win. Do something good and half the prisoners don’t appreciate it, half the rest of the staff think you’re trying to show them up, and some brain dead administrator wakes up just long enough to tell you it’s “against the rules”. So no wonder your friends see it as “just a job”. I’d wager even those who start off idealistic soon slip into that mindset for the reasons I’ve just mentioned.

    But the good ones do exist, and my admiration for them is doubled.

    As for the recidivism rates, beware of raw numbers. Yes, they’re high. But without doing a statistical analysis I’d also wager that the overall totals are horrendously skewed by non-violent drug offenders. I’d worked for almost four years with ex-prisoners, street kids, the unemployed – groups who had a higher-than-average number of people with addiction problems amongst them. Aside from a bit of recreational marijuana use, all wanted to stop using as they realised they’d get nowhere if they didn’t. So I expected that a spell in prison would be just the incentive needed to clean up, even today.

    But that was 20 years ago. Fast forward to a couple of years ago and maybe 75% of inmates were addicts and all they talked to one another about was how great it was going to be to get freer access to drugs when they were released. I’m not kidding… I used to sit in the tea room during the short breaks from work, and listen to them talk about two things: the great days they had using, and the “fun” they’ll have using when they get out. Endlessly.

    I’m entirely speculating here but the difference between the cohort of 20 years ago and those of today seemed to be the type of drugs they were one. Today everyone seems to be addicted to “meth”, “ice”, “speed” and other drugs in that family. Their hold seems to be far more pervasive than the heroin and other drugs of old, even over people who are otherwise “reasonable chaps”, as you put it.

    I befriended one guy inside… he had a degree, an intelligent interest in various issues, was utterly non violent, had a beautiful (though estranged) partner and a lovely 6 year old daughter who’d come to visit and send him letters and drawings. Yet if he wasn’t talking to me, he was talking about how great it would be to get out and “go buy an 8-ball”.

    These are people who are dangerous only to themselves and while they may commit property crimes if they’re released without having had their addiction addressed, they’re not about to murder us in our beds.

    A number of COs realise that, and try their best to help the salvageable prisoners both for their own benefit and that of society, but until “the system” wakes up and adapts, their efforts are just a drop in the ocean.

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  31. big bruv (14,165 comments) says:

    Rex

    I have no idea what Mini me Mark is doing these days but I can report that Barbara Stewart still makes a mean batch of scones.

    Given her “contribution” to the country over the last six years I feel she would have been better off sticking with the baking.

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