As a society we are failing victims of crime, when they read in the paper that the person who killed their husband etc gets $55,000 compensation for his treatment in prison, yet they never received any compensation for the original crime.
However the solutions are not that simple. Phil Goff’s proposal that any prisoner who wins compensation for being mistreated, should have to pay it to former victims, would set some very bad incentives. It would almost be encouraging prison guards to beat up prisoners, so that damages would be paid to the original victim.
One solution is for prison officials to act within the law. It is unbelievable that the corrections department did not get legal advice on whether their behaviour management regime was legal. Why has the Government not done mass sackings?
Another solution is to recognise that one does need some flexibility in dealing with the worst prisoners, and amend the law (but not retrospectively). Obviously torture and beatings should never be condoned, but the prison authorities do need some ability to punish prisoners who offend, and to protect themselves and other prisoners. The media reports of the compensation are very light on details on what actually happened. I am unsure that extended solitary confinement by itself is or should be illegal. The recent changes by Labour to give prisoners a long list of rights may just lead to further lawsuits.
However one does need to have some mechanism to discourage prison authorities from mistreating their prisoners. Personally though I would rather it was sacking and prosecuting the staff involved, rather than paying compensation.