Prison overcrowding, Springhill, worse than Mt Eden

Someone with inside experience considers there are bigger problems with the New Zealand prison system than Serco and Mt Eden.

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, who describes himself as ‘Former political prisoner of Spring Hill Corrections Facility’, details serious issues and claims that avoidable problems are mostly caused by overcrowding.

What I want to discuss here is my experience in Spring Hill and to some extent in the remand prisons in relation to the current public outcry about the standard of the Serco private run prison because the Serco debate is diverting attention from the atrocious standard of management in state run prisons.

On getting the message out about overcrowding:

There is no real means for prisoners to get the message out to the general public. They are forbidden internally from talking to journalists. The internal process of escalating these issues is nothing short of a whitewash and cover-up, and prisoners WILL experience prejudice for putting in official complaints.

For this reason, some prisoners in units higher up the hill from where I was began planning in January 2013 what is now known as the Spring Hill Riot which took place later that year. There haven’t been many full blown riots in NZ prisons. A couple of riots in the 1960s, one in 2004, and the one at Spring Hill in 2013.

Typically the cover up system kicked in with the then minister immediately calling it gang related, and the final report whitewashed the riot as being frivolous. But let me be clear, the initial report that this was gang related, and the final report putting the riot down to home-made alcohol was a total, utter, whitewash.

The intention of that riot was to raise the issue of overcrowding I have detailed, and a recent UN report confirmed.

This is the number one issue prisoners have in Spring Hill, it is the only issue they want fixed (even though I will provide what I believe are fixes for all of the above except prison justice), and I promised them that when I had completed my parole period, I would get this message out to you all.

He concludes:

Summary

The UN Committee Against Torture actually identified these three areas I addressed in its latest report to the New Zealand Government, which the current minister of Corrections has soundly rejected.

Among other things, the report identified overcrowding, inadequate health services and over-representation of Maori in prisons.

Now you all have a better idea that all of that is true and have some ideas of how to fix this without building any new prisons.

These measures only address what the Justice System and Corrections can do to fix this issue.

You will always have high levels of crime and gangs while your society is so unfair to the less fortunate.

Get over it or do something about it.

Your call…

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara
Former political prisoner of Spring Hill Corrections Facility

It’s worth reading the whole post. All MPs should read the full post.

http://www.putatara.net/2015/07/serco-debate/

Our prison problems are far bigger than Mt Eden and Serco. This isn’t a surprise, but politicians need to be pressured into addressing things – the Government in particular should take note but Opposition parties could also do far better by  drawing attention to the whole problem, not just things that suit them to complain about for political gain and on ideological grounds.

Leave a comment

17 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th July 2015

    Well posted, Pete. This article deserves wide readership.

    Reply
  2. BUCK WIT

     /  25th July 2015

    and an article by Rawshark no less

    Reply
    • Pete Kane

       /  25th July 2015

      Buck Wit I wondered if that was part of the Urewera connection to the Rawshark question that a number of commentators here have alluded to. Declaring a view – my sympathies lie with Hager in general terms. I’m assuming this is the article you mean?

      http://www.putatara.net/2015/07/rawshark-analysis/

      Reply
      • BUCK WIT

         /  25th July 2015

        yes you are correct on the Urewera connection. A strange bit of NZ history.

        Reply
        • Pete Kane

           /  25th July 2015

          Thanks Buck Wit. I like to think I followed it all reasonably closely but I would never have made the link without Your NZ and a couple of loose comments at the Whale and Kiwi Blog. (like others I was thinking West Coast) Just a couple of pieces of a puzzle – and suddenly things seem to be at least plausible. It’s a great yarn if nothing else.

          Reply
          • BUCK WIT

             /  25th July 2015

            yeah when you look at Rawshark, Dirty Politics, the cops – its all pretty interesting stuff. Almost seems to unbelievable and to complcated to make any real sense . Maybe thats why nobody has been convicted of anything??

            Reply
          • jaspa

             /  25th July 2015

            It’s a few years old, but a couple more pieces of the puzzle here: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2009/05/is-this-the-man-behind-the-brash-email-thefts/

            Reply
            • Pete Kane

               /  25th July 2015

              That was one of the links I was referring to Jaspa. I was working in SE Asia when that was all happening – and would just love getting back to the apartment, having a pre-dinner beer or two and listening to the good Doctor squirm through his final Question Times. Cruel, but you know, the poor have got it hard enough without Milton’s South Pacific agent putting in the boot.

  3. kittycatkin

     /  25th July 2015

    There’s a limit to what the rest of us CAN do to stop people committing crimes and going inside for them. I don’t see prison as the ideal solution, but wiser heads than mine have failed to solve this one. My ideal would be restoration-if I have my life savings stolen, it’s no good to me if the person goes to prison. Let them pay it back, with a little interest to cover admin costs and then it’s all over and done with. But I am not naive enough to think that this is an easy thing to do.

    While I do tire of endless guilt trips blaming the rest of us, I can see how in many cases a life of crime is all but inevitable-there is a family in my home town who are x generation criminals. When I was looking for a house there, I asked a friend if she knew what the street in which a very nice house was for sale was like. Her response was that the S———-s lived in the next one. On to the next house !. My mother taught a little S, a very nice boy who learned to love reading when she introduced him to the Narnia books, and who seemed as if he’d be the one to have a different life to the other S—————-s, He had the brains and application. But one day, I forget how many years later, there was a report in the paper-little S was off to do his first sentence. If dad and granddad and great-granddad and who knows how many others saw this as the normal way of life, then what are the odds that you won’t end up doing as they do ? My mother was very much saddened by this.

    We had a family of Black Power living near us once. They were great neighbours (truly) and, I am glad to say that most don’t seem to have become ‘tenants of the crown’ as one witty Mongrel Mob member called it and as Dad was off and on. I fear that one may have, but the girls took after their mother.

    But what can be done for all the little S—————s ?

    Reply
  4. Mike C

     /  25th July 2015

    I want more prisons built … preferably way way out in the sticks on Government Farms where the inmates have to learn how to milk cows (instead of the system) and grow vegetables (instead of marijuana) and cook food in a kitchen (instead of meth) and give back to people in the community (instead of breaking into their homes and garages and stealing their hard earned belongings).

    I reported a stolen vehicle to the Police several months ago. The Police did their job fantastically, and arrested three people who had been in trouble with the Law previously. Sadly … the Judges were absolute crap because one of the Offenders received 40 hours Community Service for growing marijuana in his ceiling, and the other male and female got 100 hours for receiving a stolen vehicle worth $65,000. The three of them only got slapped by the Judge with a wet bus ticket 😦

    The current Justice System is fucked and majorly flawed … because almost every single day we receive confirmation that “Crime does Pay”.

    Get rid of all of the Judges that Aunty Helen appointed … and build Teaching Prisons that give offenders work ethics … and if they offend after they are released from prison their term of imprisonment gets extended threefold 🙂

    Reply
    • I want more prisons as well. and sooner rather than later. the entire system is in melt down. there is no consistency on any level. cops interfering, judges corrupted. NZ is the wild west

      Reply
      • RECIDIVISM CURE

         /  25th July 2015

        What’s with the cry for ‘more prisons’?

        Best way to solve the situation, is to legalize ‘dropping’ in Mt Eden – at the end of a rope!

        Reply
          • kittycatkin

             /  26th July 2015

            Too, not to.

            Judges can only apply the law, they can’t make it.

            Would you not send murderers to prison if they murdered people who were criminals themselves ? They’d surely be public benefactors.

            Reply
        • Mike C

           /  25th July 2015

          @RecidivismCure.

          Well I guess that Cemeteries and Crematoriums would be much cheaper to run and operate than building more Prisons. LOL.

          Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  26th July 2015

      So would gulags and concentration camps. Or Stalin’s favourite, starving people to death.

      Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  26th July 2015

      I have yet to hear of a judge ‘slapping someone with a wet bus ticket’. This silly cliche has been around far too long, being used by those who haven’t the imagination to say anything original.

      Reply

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