We have had growing concerns about two things in our New Zealand prisons for some time now. The first concern is in relation to reports we were hearing about the treatment of women at Auckland Region Women’s Correctional Facility (ARWCF) and problems with the culture there. This is where the vast majority of our women prisoners are held.
The second is the use of long – and potentially illegal – lockdown hours in prison cells across the country, both before and during the Covid-19 national lockdown.
To date Labour have been very clever in using National’s existing policies to start reducing the prison population.
National always allowed for prisoners of ‘low level offending’ to apply to serve their term at home under home dentation rules, the problem is that no one inside Corrections under National ever bothered to help the prisoners apply to serve their sentence at home so no one applied.
Under Labour, Corrections have been forced to help prisoners with the paperwork to apply for home detention and that’s why the prison population has stabilised and fallen.
The problem is that while Labour have been reducing the prison population by filtering out the least dangerous, the prisoners going in are more violent gang related prisoners.
The fundamental issue we have isn’t just over crowded prisons, but a violent and corrupt culture within those prisons as well.
The physical lay out of most prisons aren’t conducive to the pacifying healing environment human beings require to change and challenge behaviour and the taxpayer cost to rebuild those environments into pacifying healing environments would be decried by an angry populace who don’t see the loss of liberty as punishment and instead want the prisoner to suffer as well.
Labour have been able to exploit loopholes in existing National prison policy to reduce the prison muster without losing any political capital, but the issues of corruption inside our prisons, the violence and a Victorian punishment infrastructure that only exacerbates violence all conspire against such weak progress and demands actual courage from Labour.
It’s the same lack of political courage we see most blatantly inside WINZ.
Labour’s refusal to lift benefits or challenge the toxic culture inside WINZ, despite more people needing welfare and the two tiered welfare system about to end, will end up becoming rod for their own backs as more and more white people not used to being treated as appallingly as WINZ treats beneficiaries come into contact with the sadism of WINZ.
Corrections and WINZ aer both underfunded for the task they need to perform and both have toxic cultures that abuse those they are supposed to be invested in.
Labour’s symbolic gestures to date, a tax hike for the richest, a Maori public holiday and renewable energy 5 years earlier than planned are great, but they are just gestures, they don’t get into the nitty gritty of the measurement of positive outcomes to the most vulnerable in our system.
With Covid overshadowing all else, Labour’s symbolic gestures are certainly enough to win the election, but winning the election and making meaningful change in the lives of the most vulnerable are two different things.
If Labour win a majority Government, a great purge of these toxic and corrupt cultures inside Public Services are a must.
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