Geddis praises Collins

January 19th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

blogs on the criminal mistreatment issue. He sums up the proposal:

A prisoner is in jail serving their punishment – doing the time for their crime. Whilst in jail, they are mistreated … in a way that breaches the rights guaranteed to all New Zealanders under legislation. They then get monetary compensation (only after all other means of remedying the situation have failed). That compensation first pays any debt they owe to any person they may have harmed through their crime – assuming there is such a debt in place.

And then the Government takes back the rest of the compensation and uses it to bolster the account it uses to pay for the support of victims of all crime.

So, in essence, the Government is proposing to fund a system of helping crime victims with money that it pays to prisoners after mistreating them whilst they are in its custody. And it will take that compensation away no matter how grievous the rights breach the prisoner has suffered, and irrespective of whether the crime that put the person in prison caused any individual any loss at all.

He states:

But to go from those propositions to a solution that prisoners have no right to receive compensation for harms caused to them by the State, but instead must pay it over to help society meet its obligations to crime victims, is to in effect say that prisoners are not people. And that is wrong.

That is why I’m pleasantly surprised to see essentially agree with me and announce that she won’t be following through with Simon Power’s proposal, but rather moving to make permanent the existing claims system. …

Quite right. So credit where credit is due – my first words of 2013 are praise for Judith Collins.

Judith’s opponents sometimes try to paint her as one-dimensional, but if you look at her overall track record in both Police and Justice, I believe it is in fact quite sophisticated  in balancing up the various rights and responsibilities of those involved in the justice system.

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28 Responses to “Geddis praises Collins”

  1. MT_Tinman (2,984 comments) says:

    I’m a fan of Collins, one of the few ministers in the current government who actually gets things done.

    Unfortunately this time both Collins and the schoolteacher have things wrong.

    Committing an offense that requires someone to be excluded from society should mean, for the time of exclusion, that that convict is classed as a non-person for official purposes subject only to the provisions available to clients of the SPCA.

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  2. peterwn (3,140 comments) says:

    There is a pragmatic aspect to this too. This ability to sue and be awarded damages is an important ultimate ‘check’ on the operation of Corrections. In its absence Corrections could start to act above the law and at some point this could blow up into a major political issue. – in other words it becomes the responsible Minister’s problem even if the Minister (or Corrections CEO or management) has not condoned such lawlessness.

    I do take issue with the concept that prisoners have full human rights – the whole idea of imprisonment is the denial of human rights. The only ‘starting point’ rights a prisoner has is to be treated humanely and in accordance with the law particularly legislation and regulations governing prisons.

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  3. flipper (3,533 comments) says:

    As usual the tinman talks crap.

    No matter how it is packaged, apart from meeting court reparation/compensation awards, the whole regime amounts to extra-judicial punishment that must, of necessity, result in a diminution of the actual criminal sentence imposed.

    Are there not Supreme/Appeal/High Court sentencing guidelines?

    So will we now have an additional sentence guideline – one that reduces the normal sentence by the amount of additional, state funded and expropriated, monetary penalty ? :)

    Collins gets a b- (barely, :) ) for picking up the MoJ recommended rewrite – back to prepared position #1
    .

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  4. AG (1,759 comments) says:

    The only ‘starting point’ rights a prisoner has is to be treated humanely and in accordance with the law particularly legislation and regulations governing prisons.

    So – prisoners have the rights that are contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which is legislation … in particular:

    23 Rights of persons arrested or detained

    (5) Everyone deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person.

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  5. Mark (1,356 comments) says:

    A good move by Collins and a good start to the year after making such a meal of the Bain review.

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  6. Paulus (2,490 comments) says:

    Great to see the renegades from the Standard are having their say on Kiwiblog.
    They will not be barred on this blog for having their views aired.
    Look forward to more joining, as diversity is the watchword in the country’s best interest, and it’s good to hear what the hard left think openly without being censored.

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  7. peterwn (3,140 comments) says:

    AG the ‘starting point’ I mentioned either falls within BORA s23 or is embodied in Corrections legislation which over-rides BORA provisions by virtue of ss4-6 BORA. The ‘inherent dignity’ criterion is met as long as the prisoner is treated in accordance with prison legislation and regulations.

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  8. backster (2,073 comments) says:

    This is the type of Socialist legislation that the Government should have rolled back. The effect is that prisoners are able to sue for ‘hurt feelings’ and are given study facilities in order to search for any grounds on which they can seek Legal Aid to enforce flaws in a flawed Act. It’s ridiculous and a Lawyer’s benefit. Prison should be without rights and entail hard labour.

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  9. flipper (3,533 comments) says:

    Mark …,
    A meal of crushed bollocks?

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  10. Yoza (1,521 comments) says:

    “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Dostoyevsky

    I’m with Geddis in that Collin’s should be recognised for her, not only humane but, pragmatic stance on prisoner rights. Subjecting inmates to draconian punishments and dehumanising regimes will have the effect of endangering innocent members of society when those prisoners are released; the majority of those new victims will be women and children who have the misfortune of living in the abused offenders social sphere. As most crimes committed against this group go unreported it would not be unexpected for this next tier of victims to develop counter productive social behaviour.

    Imposing future costs, both financial and social, on society is the unjustifiably expensive excess of pandering to groups promoting prisons as institutions of social revenge.

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  11. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    which over-rides BORA provisions by virtue of ss4-6 BORA.

    Only if it cannot be read consistently with the BORA.  Which it can, so it doesn’t.

    The effect is that prisoners are able to sue for ‘hurt feelings’

    No they can’t.

    for any grounds on which they can seek Legal Aid to enforce flaws in a flawed Act

    They don’t have to get Legal Aid to take a case.  They don’t even need a lawyer.

    and a Lawyer’s benefit.

     Spoken like someone who has never accepted legally aided instructions.  It is something that lawyers generally run a mile from.  Only the worst cases get taken up, and even then only reluctantly.  Even getting the legal aid is difficult, let alone trying to make a profit on it.

     Prison should be without rights and entail hard labour.

    Like, say, the right to life? You think that prisons should essentially be concentration camps, eh?  Interesting.

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  12. Rex Widerstrom (5,253 comments) says:

    While I agree completely with Yoza’s reasoning, peterwn has in fact identified the most important reason, in this particular situation, why this is right. And it’s the same reason advanced for sentencing prisoners to lengthy terms of imprisonment – not just to deal with the current offence but to deter others from repeating it. As a preventative measure, in other words.

    If government agencies face no real consequences for their wrongdoing, they will continue to do wrong. If Corrections step outside the government’s own guidelines, as well as international standards, on the treatment of prisoners and can say “Oh well, it all turned out okay, as the money didn’t really compensate the person affected” then there is no disincentive for that ill-treatment.

    Knowing instead that they money will go to the prisoner, the public will thus be enraged and the Minister will be demanding to know why, keeps them on the straight and narrow.

    Many a time a KB commenter has said of criminals “if you don’t want to end up in jail, then abide by the law”. The same simplistic reasoning can be applied to Corrections – if they don’t want to pay out compensation, then abide by the rules on the treatment of prisoners.

    I fail to see why some seem to think one set of people should live by the rules and another should not. Is it the uniforms?

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  13. civil serpent (22 comments) says:

    FE Smith – inmates can issue proceedings for “hurt feelings”. See for example the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Privacy Act 1993, both of which allow for compensation to be awarded for “humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to the feelings”. The Human Rights Review Tribunal (the “court of first instance” for proceedings under the HRA and PA) has awarded such damages over the years – see for example McAllister v Corrections (circa 2004). Having worked in a field in which the HRA and PA were meat and drink, I can say that I have been involved in many, many cases in which prisoners have issued proceedings and settlements have been achieved which saw payments of compensation for emotional harm. The settlements invariably include an acknowledgement of a breach.

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  14. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    civil serpent,

    It may be just me being picky, but I don’t equate humiliation, loss of dignity or emotional harm in the same category as ‘hurt feelings’. I have been in prisons enough to see the robust manner in which screws and prisoners can engage without complaint from either side.

    Technically you can issue proceedings for pretty much anything, the issue that I was rejecting was the likely success of a suit for ‘hurt feelings’. As I said, I don’t equate humiliation or loss of dignity as being the same.

    Anyway, this was something from backster that I was responding to, so a nuanced answer would have been pointless.

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  15. nasska (10,611 comments) says:

    F E Smith

    Slightly off topic but from time to time the issue of prison conditions comes up on this & other forums. Many are in favour of sentences to include hard labour as to deter inmates from wanting to risk doing further sentences for future crimes.

    Have you any thoughts on this?

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  16. mikenmild (10,611 comments) says:

    It has been said before that only honest people are much scared of prisons. Many criminals accept prisons as something that happens and are indifferent to the conditions they might face. I’m not aware of any evidence that ‘tougher’ prisons to much to deter criminals, in much the same way as there is little evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent.
    The liberal mantra is that criminals are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment.

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  17. nasska (10,611 comments) says:

    mikenmild

    I would point out that the liberals have had less than stellar results from putting their mantra into action. It’s not a subject that I can claim expertise in but I was wondering if hard labour, apart from being a new experience for many of the inmates, might not have a deterrent effect.

    It’s been a long time since it was abolished….it may be time to reintroduce it at least as a trial.

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  18. Nostalgia-NZ (4,896 comments) says:

    Hard labour no doubt makes hard men nasska. Just as allowing access to the Courts and the principles of the BOR teaches that the pen can be mightier than the sword.

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  19. nasska (10,611 comments) says:

    Yes the pen usually beats the sword….at least in the long term. I’m 100% behind AG’s endorsement of Judith Collins’ decision. Rex Widerstrom at 3.37 summed it up neatly.

    By their own definition at least, all prison inmates will be “hard men”. I’m wondering just how hard they would be when considering whether to risk a second sentence of “hard labour”.

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  20. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    nasska,

    Have you any thoughts on this?

    Oddly enough, I do.  I know that will surprise many here on KB…

    I, along with many of my colleagues, do not subscribe to the ‘prison is for rehabilitation’ line of thinking.  Prison is for punishment and that is exactly what we should say it is for. 

    Prisons are not luxury hotels, notwithstanding some of the views of the uninformed.  They are relatively spartan places that place a good deal of emphasis on routine, not so much on training or thinking.  Plus, the food is generally crap.

    Many criminals accept prisons as something that happens and are indifferent to the conditions they might face.

    I think that Mike is correct when he says this.  It might sound like the crims are thumbing their nose at the system in this, but I would argue that it is more of a fatalistic streak than anything else.  It is not because the place is good, just that it is a part of life that is there to be accepted along with everything else, good or bad.

    When people mention ‘hard labour’ as part of a custodial sentence they often seem to mean ‘mindless labour’, and I don’t agree with that.  However, I do think that labour should be a requirement of any prison stay.  It should be productive labour, however, and not the mindless sort of ‘chaing gang’ labour that is usually advocated.  Go to any prison and you will often see a lot of nothing being done (although it can turn out some very good touch rugby players).  Now, that can depend on the prison, because some (especially the minimum security ones) have more opportunities than others, even some beyond the wire. 

    So, allowing for the fact that there are already opportunites, I see no reason why prison should not have a compulsory ‘labour or learning’ element to it for all inmates, not just those of a certain security rating.  Why can’t we aim for most prisons to be completely self-sufficient in producing vegetables and meat, for example? (And I know that there is already some of this to a limited extent in some places)  Of course, then you run into the fact that the government is effectively competing with private enterprise, but I have no problem with that so long as it is within reason (so no Shawshank style ‘enterprise’!).  With good oversight, there is a lot of potential for such programmes to go well beyond what they currently do.

    As I have often said here, a suprisingly large number of inmates are either illiterate or semi-literate.  I do think that a lot more needs to go into basic literacy and numeracy training, and I have no problem with an assessment being made upon entry and then compulsory learning modules being a part of each day.  Even better, make continuing the lessons a part of release conditions. Unlike many others, I think that it is brilliant if prisoners get qualifications, even/especially University degrees, while serving their time.  Encourage them all, I say.  Even better if it is combined with a required ‘service’ element, as long as it is reasonably compatible with the requirements of study.

    I say that last bit because you should never underestimate the potential for vindictiveness that comes with being a prison officer.

    The main barriers to all of this are twofold: firstly, it will cost a lot more money than is currently spent, plus Corrections is a pretty crappy implementer of anything and regularly gets offside with programme providers.

    So I guess my answer is a qualified but relatively strong ‘yes’.

    EDIT: I think a short answer would be to echo MM’s view: it probably wouldn’t deter that much. I think my idea would reduce recidivism, however.

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  21. nasska (10,611 comments) says:

    F E Smith

    Thank you.

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  22. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    you are most welcome, nasska.

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  23. Nostalgia-NZ (4,896 comments) says:

    F E Smith. Happy new year.

    ‘I see no reason why prison should not have a compulsory ‘labour or learning’ element to it for all inmates, not just those of a certain security rating.’

    Rewards for good choices I think might clearer define the freedom of choice aspect. Just a brief example; sit on your arse and do nothing or chose to make a decision that has personal rewards and from which their are benefits toward earlier release and such things. Nobody ultimately wants their life to be f upped with no opportunity for change, no matter how staunch they might need to be seen to be. There may be few exceptions and will be, but in the broader picture the bare desert will eventually become less appealing than self-progress.

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  24. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    sit on your arse and do nothing or chose to make a decision that has personal rewards and from which their are benefits toward earlier release and such things.

    I suspect that a lot of the prisoners would choose the former, not the latter.

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  25. mikenmild (10,611 comments) says:

    F E Smith
    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that what you advocate is in tune with the approach Corrections has wanted since at least the ‘About Time’ report of c2001 – more employment programmes, more rehabilitative programmes, less time for prisoners to do nothing constructive.
    Of course, this approach has had to play second fiddle to the enormous expansion of the prison system over the same time in response to the ‘lock ‘em up longer’ brigade.
    We send too many people to prison. Those that we do send need to be employed constructively. That costs money.

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  26. Nostalgia-NZ (4,896 comments) says:

    Would be interesting to know if more would choose to do nothing rather than ‘work’ toward an earlier release. It seems to me to be against normal characteristics of wanting to be free to choose to do nothing if the prisoner had the opportunity. I read an American study years ago that said there is a ‘peak’ time when it is best time for society and a prisoner to be released and that once that time is past the prospects of re-offending increase. If it’s true then the choice of time must be when the prisoner’s motivation to change is high. I think that entry into working toward release programs would encourage that if supported by more flexibility for parole for those that achieve. Putting blanket schemes that included all prisoners would be difficult because there would always be those prisoners who didn’t give a stuff who would be likely to effect the progress of others. I say choice is the best, let the prisoner ‘tough’ it out and serve longer if he or she wishes but never exclude them from joining programs designed to overcome difficulties that may have led to their offending, along with those designed to give them basic skills in preparation for work or better education.

    I recall an initiative by the parole board that gave a fairly young offender an opportunity for earlier release on the basis that he went to a prison in another city and away from the influence of the gang he’d been in for many years, that proved relatively successful and showed how similar initiatives and an earlier chance of freedom can make a difference. This fellow’s co-offender didn’t exercise the same option but from the public perspective a dangerous partnership was dissolved with one man eventually leaving one of the country’s most notorious gangs at the same time as transporting himself from a highly dangerous offender to someone able to become a reduced risk to society.

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  27. Judith (7,460 comments) says:

    Our basic premise is that any sentence for crimes should be retributive/punitive, restorative and rehabilitative.

    The restorative justice model places the emphasis on the victims wellbeing, and repairing damage to the community, however also supports the ‘restoration’ of the offender, in so much as it allows them or provides them with the means to restore their lifestyle to one that is characterised as law-abiding.

    I would have thought the most appropriate system was one that restored balance to the victim, and the community, and by necessity, to the offender. Whatever system is used, it must place the dignity of the victim, before all other considerations. Our traditional adversarial and retributive legal system does not work well in an environment that concentrates solely on the punitive aspect. That is reflected in our recidivism statistics. Victims, in general in New Zealand feel alienated from the process, and further victimised by it.

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  28. F E Smith (3,301 comments) says:

    MM,

    it is possible. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Corrections, nor do I keep up with their ideas as to prison operation. Rex Widerstrom is really the person to talk to in all of this, as far as I am concerned. I just have the observations that I have made as a visitor to their sites and having talked to and seen their customers close up and in their natural habitat, so to speak.

    However, I do know that Corrections has a terrible reputation generally, and not without some justification. Every government department likes to think of itself as efficient and well-focussed, but with Corrections doing so would involve a fair amount of self-delusion.

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