prisons

Opportunity cost: what could you do with $1b?

I love the idea of locking up scumbags and not letting them out until they have gotten it through their thick skulls that the rest of society expects them to grow up.   But $1b is a lot of money.

Crime does not pay, as the old adage goes.

That may or may not be true, but what is absolutely without question is that crime costs. And the costs aren’t just incurred by victims of crime but by each and every one of us.

It was announced this week that the Government has approved plans to increase the country’s prison capacity by 1800 beds and the cost of this is expected to be about $1 billion.

And that’s only the cost of this particular expansion programme.

According to Corrections Minister Judith Collins, the number of criminals needing to be incarcerated has increased faster than the number crunchers projected.

There was a glimmer of hope in the press release: there was talk of Corrections increasing rehabilitation, providing education and special training, and addressing violent and sexual offending through special treatment units.

But there were no specifics and no indication of how much money would go on these programmes. And there appears to be much merit in these initiatives. Read more »

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Nats show they are tough on crims, Labour shows they prefer catch and release

Judith Collins and John Key have announced today significant spending in Corrections to ensure ratbags are kept behind bars.

Predictably, Labour has come out in support of the criminals.

The Government’s plans to spend a billion dollars on more beds for New Zealand’s burgeoning prison population shows it is “deadly serious” about cracking down on methamphetamine and violent crime, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

Labour has criticised the announcement, saying it is due to a failure to reduce reoffending and will simply create more “schools for crime”.

Collins announced the plans for another 1800 beds around the country, saying that although levels of crime had reduced, the number of prisoners had increased “faster than projected”.

The beds will include more double-bunking in Northland’s Ngawha Prison, a new 245-bed block built at Mt Eden, and a yet-to-be-approved new facility with 1500 beds on the existing site of Waikeria Prison – run by Corrections but built and maintained by a public-private partnership.

Collins said the Government’s plans showed it was “deadly serious” about cracking down on methamphetamine and family violence, with 70 per cent of the current prison population jailed for serious violent, sexual or drug-related offending.

“I’d like every meth dealer to know they’re not going to get a get out of jail free pass because there’s not enough beds – we’ll have enough for them.”  

Read more »

Gangs gang up on Judith Collins

Two lifetime members of the Mongrel Mob have voiced their support of a lifetime Black Power member and the work he does with prisoners.

Ngapari Nui was suspended from his volunteer role by Corrections, which claimed it didn’t know the kaumatua was a gang member.

But Mr Nui disputes that and says he couldn’t get through to the offenders if he wasn’t a gang member.

Edge Te Whaiti and Harry Tam have been patched members of the Mongrel Mob Notorious chapter for 40 years.

Despite the gangs’ traditional rivalry, they want to publicly support Black Power member Mr Nui, who has been suspended from his volunteer work in prisons.

“It’s bullsh**, that they can have Ngapari working in there and then all of a sudden turn their back on him,” says Mr Te Whaiti.

“The good that he has done as a kaumatua has been forgotten because he’s affiliated, to me that’s [one of] the most dumbest things I’ve ever bloody heard of,” Mr Tam says.

Mr Nui has been volunteering in prisons for 15 years, six of those as kaiwhakamana – a vetted and registered visitor providing support and advice to prisoners.

His gang membership only became an issue last week, when Corrections Minister Judith Collins said if he wanted to work in prisons he’d have to hang up his patch.

How many gang members did Mr Nui assist away from a life of crime over 15 years?  Have any of them left their gangs due to his counsel?  Read more »

Faces of the day

CHRIS MCKEEN/ FAIRFAX NZ The Howard League's Tony Gibbs and Mike Williams have introduced a literacy programme in prisons across the country.

CHRIS MCKEEN/ FAIRFAX NZ
The Howard League’s Tony Gibbs and Mike Williams have introduced a literacy programme in prisons across the country.

The Howard League’s Tony Gibbs and Mike Williams have introduced a literacy programme in prisons across the country.

…It is these two, together with an army of volunteers and the full­time services of a retired teacher, who have introduced the league’s literacy programme in prisons around the country. Its success has spawned another programme: one designed to turn potential inmates around before they reach the prison doors.

Williams may have long left his leading role in the Labour Party. But he still has the persuasive oratorial and fund­raising skills born of a life in politics.

…Days before the Spring Hill ceremony, he seated himself in his favourite cafe to explain his current vocation. He starts by reciting author Neil Gaiman: “How do these people [private prison providers] plan how many cells they will need? Easy: you just find out how many 11 year­ olds can’t read or write.”

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Prison population is at a record high, Judith Collins explains why

We don’t send people to prison lightly in New Zealand. The vast majority of offenders who come before the courts receive sentences in the community (such as community work, supervision or home detention). Also, people tend to be sentenced to prison only once all alternative sentence options have been tried and have failed.

Violent offending is the most common offence that results in a prison sentence. These offenders are sent to prison to keep our communities safe.

The prison population has increased steadily since the early 1980s. There was a 70 per cent increase between 1995 and 2007 with periods of slight decreases or stabilisation since then.

However since 2014, the prison population has increased again, leading to record highs throughout 2015 and early 2016. In August last year, the prison population hit 9,000 for the first time. Since then it has continued to rise, peaking at 9,360 in February this year.

The increase since 2014 has mostly been driven by the increase in the remand population.

Between February 2014 and 2016, the remand population increased by approximately 40% and remand prisoners accounted for around 90 per cent of the population increase in the last year.

People on remand are the really bad buggers: those who are a flight risk or are deemed to present continued danger to the public.  Read more »

$17m Christmas present for Corrections as business is booming

Alcatraz_Island_-_prison_cells

Corrections is about to get a $17.6 million boost in funding from the Government because of bigger than expected growth in the prison population.

In her first major announcement as Corrections Minister, Judith Collins says the money will also help take care of the cost pressures associated with an increase in inmates and enhancements to electronic monitoring.

The Corrections Department has had a tumultuous year dealing with private prison operator Serco.

The company had been running the Mt Eden remand prison until July when problems at the jail forced Corrections to take over management. Read more »

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Rodney Hide on the alleged failure of privatisation

Rodney Hide discusses privatisation vs the state in the prison sector in his NBR column.

The Left were gleeful. The free market a failure. The private sector demonstrably about cost-cutting and profit, not service. The government’s privatisation policy wrecked.

Me? I’m waiting for the results of the review before declaring capitalism dead, turning my back on 250 years of economic knowledge and crossing to North Korea.

Besides, what’s really on display is the Left’s woeful understanding. People and organisations in the private sector aren’t better than those in the state sector. It’s rather that poor performance is weeded out in the private sector. And that’s precisely what’s happening with Serco. Its fee is cut and it’s at risk of losing the contract.

That’s precisely how it works. That’s what contracting out is all about: Perform or else.

I would have thought the swift dealing to was evidence of the wisdom of contracting out. What happens when the state sector fouls up? Invariably it’s a systems fault, no one has their pay docked and no one is fired. The state sector staggers on to the next mess up.

Besides, there’s no options with state sector management. Ministers are stuck with the people, the system, the organisations. There is no talking tough and no talk of sacking.

Read more »

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Rack ’em and stack ’em

The Corrections Minister says he’s confident a new privately run south Auckland prison will be a success, despite concerns over the company running it.

The 960-bed men’s prison is due to open next week.

It’s costing the taxpayer the best part of $1 billion over 25-years, but the Corrections Minister isn’t paying much attention to the mistakes made by overseas company Serco, which will run and profit from it.

$40 millions a year for 25 years?

“I’m judging them on their performance in New Zealand,” says Sam Lotu-Iiga. “The evidence I’ve seen is that they’re performing exceptionally. We’ve got to judge them on their performance here.”

Serco’s track record is questionable. In the UK it was forced to pay back £ 60 million after charging the British government for services it didn’t deliver, and lost cleaning contracts in Australia for botching hospital sterilisation work.

And yet in New Zealand Serco’s done fine.   Read more »

Should New Zealand export its prisoners?

Switzerland is considering it.

Switzerland has too many criminals and too few prisons.

Now the Justice Ministry is reportedly considering a proposal to export convicts to neighbouring France and Germany.

Swiss prisons chief Thomas Freytag told public broadcaster SRF in a program aired late Friday that the country’s correctional facilities are at more than 100 percent capacity.

Prisons in the French-speaking cantons (states) of western Switzerland are said to be particularly overcrowded.

It’s unclear when the Justice Ministry would decide on the plan, and whether France or Germany would be prepared to let Swiss inmates do their time there.

In recent years Switzerland has tightened its immigration rules for foreigners from the surrounding European Union, causing considerable political friction with its neighbours.

And it’s not a new idea.   Read more »

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Certain business people and politicians come to mind