Dear Andrew Little – how to sell the new mega-prison to NZ and save your progressive reputation


Dear Andrew Little

I’m guessing the decision to build the new mega-prison must be already made.

I’m guessing the previous government would have signed any future government up to a contract that would cost you an arm and a leg to pull out of.

On top of this cost reality, you have run out of prison beds which means changes to legislation to stop throwing NZers into prison will help things in the future, they won’t help now.

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So what are you to do?

You are no longer dealing with a crime problem, you are dealing with a culture problem.

Decades of mainstream media glorifying crime coverage and decades of politicians whipping people up with that crime coverage means you are now fighting middle class fear of crime, not actual crime.

Despite our crime rates being static, we continue to throw thousands needlessly into prison to satisfy middle class fears of crime.

How can you counter such ignorance that has made corrections into a counter-productive hate pit?

I suggest you declare the new mega-prison  the new prison of the future.

Get those buggers who want to make a profit out of constructing this atrocity to earn that dollar and radically redesign the prison.

Instead of a harsh prison built to punish, why not build the rehabilitative prison of the future?

A prison that is built to heal rather than warp further.

What many of the easily triggered sensible sentencing mob of Nu Zilind never understood about prison is that it is the loss of liberty that is the punishment, the prisoners themselves don’t need to suffer awful conditions on top of that.

Prisons can only rehabilitate if the environments are safe and conducive to rehabilitation.

Instead of double bunked cells and underfunded infrastructure, create counselling spaces, class rooms to learn skills, recreation spaces where prisoners feel safe.

Why not take this opportunity to break the mould? Why must prisons be cold and soulless? Why must they be environments of fear and danger to the prisoners?

You need to build the bloody prison, so why not take the chance to revolutionise the entire format and build a modern prison that is designed to rehabilitate prisoners rather then make them suffer?

Demand a design that lives up to the values you want to promote rather than lock into place an old system that continues to damage rather than heal.

Replace the words ‘San Quentin’ with ‘Mt Eden’.

Sure National will scream that it’s an Adult Disneyland, yes right wing pundits will accuse you of pampering the crims while the poor victims go without and yes the Troll Farm at the NZ Herald will do backflips in horror at you wanting prisoners to be safe from harm – but Andrew if there’s anyone with the mana to pull this off, it’s you.


  1. Labour also want to have at least a chance of winning in 2020, so the chances of a progressive prison are slight to none. Such is the reality of democracy and politics; you have to appease your voters and the fact is they tend to love prisons that punish. When roughly well over a 3rd of NZers polled not all that long ago would welcome a return of the death penalty, progressive prisons are just not on the cards if you want to politically survive.

  2. The thing is, a significant percentage of the population actually DO want to see people punished. A progressive prison may be the right thing, but there’s a whole lot of people there with less than average intelligence who just can’t get over the idea that prison is there to punish.

    A truly progressive prison would create a groundswell of anti-Labour angst that would see them rolled in the next election, I fear. Far better to look at the reasons those are in jail. A significant proportion are in jail through our prohibitionist attitude to drugs. And another large proportion are there through mental illness exacerbated by poverty. And another large proportion are there due to choosing to sell illegal drugs through an inability to find work that will pay what they can make through selling drugs. And let’s not get started on the changes to bail laws.

    A progressive attitude towards cannabis and a regulated market would reduce the prison population by a large amount. Properly resourced mental health services would do the same. And then let’s invest in decent housing for our population, and look at how we get a certain part of the population working. Money spent on “make work” schemes often has the effect of reducing spending in health, justice and police – a pity it’s not measured so we don’t know how much.

    Once you’ve reduced the prison population to those that justify being jailed, then let’s look at what we can do with them.

    • Yes.

      “Money spent on “make work” schemes often has the effect of reducing spending in health, justice and police”

      An achieved FULL EMPLOYMENT policy would see the whole population with something to do and adequate income. Its been done before…

    • +100…lets not have the new prison…we cant afford it…it is an indictment on the inhumane unegalitarian neolib society created by the jonkey and billinglish Nacts

      … changes must be made to reduce the prison population…people must be made to feel worthwhile and with a genuine stake in society

      Totally agree with this:

      “A progressive attitude towards cannabis and a regulated market would reduce the prison population by a large amount. Properly resourced mental health services would do the same. And then let’s invest in decent housing for our population, and look at how we get a certain part of the population working. Money spent on “make work” schemes often has the effect of reducing spending in health, justice and police – a pity it’s not measured so we don’t know how much.”

  3. The incarceration problems are indicative of deeper issues in society, none bigger than the housing problems seen daily.

    Superficially it is the Bail Act as it is less tolerant of bail condition breaches but deeper, people get bail, then breach by not living where they are supposed to because they burn bridges, cannot afford rent, rejected from accomodation and or a combination of all three. They then disappear, get locked up, bailed, do the same again and the race to prison speeds up.

    And a real contributer to all this madness is methamphetamine that just magnifies the problem massively.

    The thing is repealing the Bail Act amendments will not fix things.

    I like your idea, out of a range of shit choices it seems the best Ive heard of so

  4. What the poorly informed don’t understand is that if you have harsh, brutal conditions in prison, then you will produce more brutal people with a harsh outlook on life.

    Civility was never produced by brutalising people.

    Until that simple fact is understood, the dead-end road of more prisons will be chosen by the ignorant and the fearful.

    • So lets blame the Victim. Not the Criminal Eh?

      Every single person would love crime to vanish. But to suggest that we can get by without prisons is simply not true in this violent nation.

      The control and eradication of crime is done very early on in a child’s life by good parenting, adequate family income, abstinence from Gambling, Alcohol, Physical and Mental Abuse, Opiates; Amphetamines etc .. good Diets; strong community standards, excellent education.

      Above all, every person from the day they are born should be shielded from bad people, and should be steeped in the Sacredness of Life.

        • Hi Frank Macskasy

          I addressed to whomever Frank. I am either right or wrong. But a crime free life is daily brought about through good rearing from the cradle – not when the criminal is already in Prison.

          On another matter, I am sad that Palestinians have been killed and injured in the Gaza strip – at the request of Hamas.

          But I am much more saddened by the fact that 61 children have been slaughtered here in Aotearoa during the last decade.

          By so called “Parents”. Unbeliveable ,Utterly Sickening horrible deaths The worst crimes in the world Martyn and Frank.

          Right here in our own Country. No tears for them . TDB doesn’t seem to know about it Frank. Please read: “61 little names on New Zealand’s roll of dishonour” 21 Mar, 2016 5:00am NZ Herald.

          It is the saddest thing you will ever read in your life Frank.
          Let The Gaza look after the Gaza. Okay ? We have got work to do here. Not there. As I see it

  5. sorry Martyn I don’t agree with a mega prison no matter how you dress it up. I think there is probably a few 100 possibly a thousand prisoners that can be released but they don’t have anywhere to live and they haven’t had the rehab they need. I would rather see money invested in housing and rehab so we can release them.
    If the working poor and many others can’t get anywhere to live how can prisoners and what about our mentally ill and our ageing population they all need somewhere to live. We also have governments that have not planned for housing shortages for example why would you knock down HNZ houses/flats and not have a proper backup plan. And I have heard all the excuses in the book for knocking them down and I know most are a load of bull and a way of our government getting out of providing social housing.
    Once we build a mega prison we can’t go back and in-build it so I think we need to have a better plan. A billion dollars is a lot of money and then there is the money it will cost to do the rehab and ideas you mentioned Martyn. I think we have the people in our communities to come up with a better plan and we need to get onto it asap. But please don’t build this mega prison it will be filled with our people. (Maori)

  6. Making crime punishments harsher won’t stop crime.
    Even the Victorians woke up to that one.
    Question is, do we in New Zealand have the mental capacity to make our own solution by ignoring the hysterical howling of the right wing mob?
    I hope so, but I doubt it.

  7. Interesting that your letter is addressed to Andrew Little. Kelvin Davis seems to have gone missing.

    Andrew is the better chance of gaining a progressive outcome but, having had success with Mount Eden/Serco, Kelvin Davis has dropped off the radar.
    Andrew is simply far more competent

  8. I hope Andrew Little is doing his homwerk on Scandinavian prison systems. Kelvin Davis seems out of his depth, Willy Jackson would be a better choice as deputy but he will have his day

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