A good investment

March 30th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Taxpayers are about to pump an extra $5 million a year into educating criminals.

Prisoner learning places will increase from about 900 last year to 1700 in 2015, and funding will rise to $7m a year for the next two years, up from $2m in 2013 and 2014.

So is this worth the investment?

Convicted killer John Barlow, who mentored several prisoners to study while he was in jail, is a passionate advocate for the importance of education for inmates, believing prisons need dedicated study units.

“Evidence over the last 50 years in the United States shows that people who attain degrees while in prison almost never return to prison,” he told The Dominion Post earlier this month. “That means no more victims, they can get a job and pay tax, and the state does not have to pay $100,000 a year to keep them in prison.”

If Mr Barlow is correct, then it seems a very good investment.


All prisons to become working prisons

September 11th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Anne Tolley announced:

All public prisons in New Zealand will become full working prisons by 2017, and ex-prisoners will receive post-release drug addiction treatment if National is returned to government, says Corrections Spokesperson Anne Tolley.

Excellent. A great idea.

“By expanding the working prisons model from three to 16 prisons, every eligible prisoner will have a structured 40 hour-a-week timetable to include work experience, skills training and education, alongside drug and alcohol treatment and other rehabilitation programmes.  This will give them the skills they need to live a crime-free life outside prison.

“The vast majority of prisoners don’t want to be sitting around in their cells doing nothing. The working prisons model gives them the opportunity to learn good habits and take responsibility for their lives. And after a decent day’s work they are also more manageable for prison staff.” 

The working prisons expansion will not require additional funding, and can be established through reprioritisation of resources.

Again a great move, but surprised that so few prisons up until now have been working prisons. Good to see they are doing it with no extra funding needed.

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Herald wrong on prison population

January 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s prison population continues to grow despite record-low crime rates and an ambitious Government strategy to cut reoffending.

The number of prisoners has grown steadily over the past 15 years at a rate well above New Zealand’s population growth.

Figures obtained under the Official Information Act show the National-led Government has slowed that trend, but the rate of imprisonment remains stubborn.

After a rare dip in the prison population in 2011/12, the total number of inmates rose again in the year to June 2013.

First of all, the latest stats are for September 2013 which has 8,474 prisoners compared to 8,597 in June. Not sure why one would not use the most recent stats. The stats are on the Corrections website – don’t need the OIA.

But even on June stats, the statement is wrong. June 2013 had 8,597 prisoners and June 2012 was 8,616. That is a small decrease, not a rise.

On the latest stats, we are 8,474 compared to 8,623 in Sep 2012.


Cherry picking over the imprisonment rate

December 16th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sensationalised mass media, the rise of populist pressure groups and distrust of expert input has led to New Zealand’s Third World levels of imprisonment, a leading academic says.

In a paper titled A Punitive Society, Victoria University criminology Professor John Pratt has attacked New Zealand’s continually rising imprisonment rate and what he terms “penal populism” around crime.

I’ve never ever heard a criminology academic (exception of Greg Newbold) say anything on law & order that isn’t 1000% predictable.

In New Zealand, there are 194 prisoners for every 100,000 people.

This is higher than anywhere in Western Europe and sits between African countries Gabon and Namibia on a global league table.

This is carefully cherry picked as saying that our imprisonment rate is only the 74th highest in the world doesn’t sound anywhere near as sexy. Also note the careful selection of Western Europe only so European and OECD countries such as Estonia, Czech Republic and Poland are excluded.

The crime rate has been falling for years and yet the prison population and corrections spending has ballooned to $1.2 billion this year, Professor Pratt said.

Corrections spending includes rehabilitation and extra money for drug and alcohol treatment. Is Professor Pratt against this?

The leading academic also has the most basic facts wrong. He claims the prison population is increasing. It is not. The latest head count has 8,474 prisoners. Three years ago it was 8,747. That is a decrease.

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Doesn’t sound very evil to me?

October 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The left oppose the ideas of PPPs, and specifically a PPP model for prisons. They would have you think that private prisons will be profit motivated penal institutions that don’t invest in rehabilitation etc.

The reality is that the last private prison we had (Labour tore up the contract) did much better than the state prisons, and the Herald looks at the new Wiri prison:

Inmates moving through the country’s new $300 million prison will be able to track their path to freedom.

As they get closer to the main gatehouse, they are nearing their release date.

The jail, which covers 17ha at Wiri in the southwest of Auckland, is laid out according to the prisoner’s journey.

Factors deciding where they are on the site include the seriousness of offending, length of sentence, level of risk and behaviour within the walls.

“The design mirrors your own personal journey,” says John Holyoake, transition director from private British-owned corrections operator Serco New Zealand.

“So the highest level of security is farthermost from the exit. The concept of punishment has been removed. Instead, this is about rehabilitation and reintegration.”

Isn’t this what the left should be supporting?

Inmates will have computers in their cells, with streams of viewing available: free-to-air television channels and educational information, designed to enhance their vocations or careers once they are out, Holyoake says.

Not exactly hard labour or D block is it.

Those involved in Wiri says it breaks the mould in terms of new prisons because it is a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Department of Corrections and SecureFuture comprising builder Fletcher Construction, maintenance specialist Spotless and operator Serco New Zealand with a 25-year contract. Buildings are designed by architects Mode Design of Australia and Peddle Thorp, working with Beca and SKM.


Double-bunk and single-bunk rooms in the three more secure house blocks at the men’s prison are 8.6sq m in size.

“This will be the world’s best new prison,” says Holyoake.

Near the gatehouse, things are quite different at the cluster of low-security residences.

“Up to 24 prisoners will live in each of the residences, two levels high, almost like a motel unit. They will have their own bedrooms and a budget to buy their food and some people will be learning social skills they never had. Some of the people in here will be working on the outside too,” Holyoake said.

I’m all for rehabilitation, when it works. Some prisoners can not be rehabilitated, but those who can be are worth investing in.

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Poor prisoners

June 1st, 2013 at 6:27 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Gang tensions are believed to have sparked the on-going prison riot at Spring Hill jail south of Auckland, where inmates are setting fires and damaging cells.

But who is to blame? It isn’t the gangs. Oh no. According to the Greens, it is the Government. Andrea Vance tweeted:

Greens say double bunking and smoking ban to blame for heightened tensions in prisons.

This would be hilarious, if it were not so tragic. The smoking ban by the way has been in place for two years, and the double bunking for three years.

Yet the Greens have divined they are to blame for the riot!

Nothing to do with the gangs. For gang members are just victims of society, as are those poor prisoners who can’t smoke and have single cells.

Imagine the fun with a Green Minister of Corrections!

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How could you spend the time?

May 14th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A security inmate was locked in a visiting booth with his partner for hours because of the “poor practice” of staff, a report into the incident says.

The partner had driven to Rimutaka Prison from Opotiki last November and was granted an extra 30 minutes.

They were put in a non-contact booth and became worried when their time elapsed and no-one came to get them.

After they spent several hours yelling, the woman smashed an observation window but was unable to escape. Three hours later, another prisoner heard their yells and alerted the supervision officer.

Unless the room is set up in such a way that they are entirely physically segregated, I’d welcome several hours in a room with my partner if I was a prisoner!


The prison league table

March 27th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Anne Tolley has released what is effectively a league table of our 17 prisons. It’s great to have such transparency on how our prisons are doing on various criteria.

All 17 prisons are now measured on their performance against each other in a range of areas including security, assaults, drug tests and rehabilitation programmes. They are then categorised in four performance grades, with the resulting tables released quarterly.

The information is used by Corrections and prison managers to identify and share successful practices, and focus on areas which need improvement.

The table has six prisons in the “exceeding” category, eight in “effective” and three “needs improvement”.

Mount Eden is the privately run prison. In the first half of 2012 it was in the “needs improvement” category, then in Q3 went to “effective” and in Q4 is “exceeding”.  It is the most improved prison.

Of course Labour and Greens are vowing to close it down.


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Dom Post on prison work

February 4th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

A good prison system should have three functions. It should keep the public safe from dangerous criminals, punish those who have seriously or repeatedly broken the law and rehabilitate offenders.

By and large, New Zealand’s penal system does the first two reasonably well. When it comes to the third, it has been an abject failure. …

But while the prison system is good at keeping inmates locked up – escapes are rare – it is not so good at preparing them to reintegrate back into society once they are released. The recidivism rate among former inmates is alarmingly high. Nearly 40 per cent of those freed from jail each year are back inside within 24 months of their release. …

That is why the Government’s to investigate the merits of “working prisons” should have the support of every party in Parliament.

Under the scheme, every inmate at Tongariro and Auckland Women’s prisons will be engaged in some type of work or rehabilitation activity for 40 hours a week. The scheme is already running at Christchurch’s Rolleston Prison, which has a contract with Housing New Zealand to refurbish earthquake-damaged properties.

Provided the expansion is carefully planned to ensure jobs are not taken away from workers in the community, it could have a significant effect. According to the Government’s figures, reoffending rates for inmates on Release to Work programmes are 16 per cent lower than for those who are not, and prisoners who undertake work in jails per cent lower.

Yet the Herald said the scheme will do more harm than good!

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A bizarre editorial

February 1st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial is rather bizarre. The headline is:

Work in jail scheme will do more harm than good

Now that is a very definitive statement. It is not saying there are complications, or it *may* do more harm than good. It is a definitive statement that it will definitely do more harm than good.

Yet I read the entire editorial, and they don’t actually produce anything to back up the assertion. They talk about the complications and the extra costs that may be incurred, but that is again vastly different from stating outright that having additional working prisons will do more harm than good.

Now let us look at what the Herald says is so awful:

Ms Tolley has conceded the plan will require “significant infrastructure upgrades”.

Presumably she is referring to the workplace equipment that will need to be installed in prisons. The costs do not, however, end there. There is the expense involved in work training and tuition for the inmates.

Oh my God. We will spend money on training and tuition for prisoners. How awful.

I’m skeptical of many types of government spending.  There’s a lot of programmes I would personally cut, to allow a reduction in taxes. But you know I don’t have a huge problem with training and tuition for prisoners.

Already, however, the British Prison Officers Association has complained that this is exploitative of prisoners and risks damaging the wider economy. “We have concerns about simply using prisoners as cheap labour for companies to cut their costs,” it has said. That cutting means, inevitably, that in some cases prisoners are taking the jobs of people in the community.

That is a potential concern, but we already have some work being done. The challenge is making sure the work done has minimal impact on other jobs. But again the editorial provides no substance to back up their assertion the expansion of work in prisons will “do more harm than good”.

Additionally, there is the risk that an increasing emphasis on getting inmates into work will lessen that on education, employment training and drug and alcohol addiction treatment programmes. This rehabilitation work was, commendably, at the forefront of Government policy announced last year.

Quite the contrary. The plan is part of that programme, as in fact the editorial them acknowledges:

A key part of this programme is providing greater support for prisoners to find jobs when they are released. Theoretically, that process should be aided by the Government’s work initiative.

So again we have an entire editorial that is at odds with the assertion in its title. It is bizarre.

They say:

Admirable idea falls down on numerous practicalities.

Yet they have not documented these. All they have done is say hey it may cost some money (no shit Sherlock), and you need to be careful of the impact on the labour market.

I never thought we’d see a newspaper argue against money being spent on giving prisoners training and tuition so they are more likely to gain employment when released.

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More working prisons

January 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

More prisons will be turned into working prisons where all prisoners will be placed in a 40-hour week programme of work and rehabilitation, Prime Minister John Key said in his statement to Parliament today, the first sitting day of the year.

It is part of the Government’s goal of reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.

“The Government will increase employment opportunities for prisoners by establishing more of our prisons as working prisons, where all prisoners will be engaged in a structured 40-hour week of employment and rehabilitation activities,” he said. …

Of the country’s 19 prisons, only one at present is deemed a working prison, Rolleston.

Seems like an excellent initiative to me. Hopefully they won’t stop at three prisons. It would be impractical to do at the maximum security prisons, but I think having a regular work routine will help prisoners reintegrate back into society once their term is up.

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