Destiny Church demands access to prisons, Ministers respond

Brian Tamaki and his Destiny Church had a rally at Parliament demanding access to prisons with two programmes they have developed, but Tamaki has been told to go through the normal channels and make a formal application, and Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis has made pointed response.

RNZ: Destiny Church rallies at Parliament for access to prisons

An estimated 2000 Destiny Church supporters rallied at Parliament this afternoon demanding access to prisons for their rehabilitation programmes, and millions of dollars in funding.

The leader of the church, Brian Tamaki, says his Man Up and Legacy programmes have helped hundreds of people turn their lives around, many of whom have spent years in the criminal justice system.

Man Up’s website describes the 15-week programme as a link to a ‘brotherhood’, which helps men identify and understand issues in their lives, and work through them for a more stable future.

The Corrections Department said it had never received a formal application from Destiny Church to deliver Man Up or Legacy in prisons.

The Justice Minister Andrew Little said the church had also never applied for funding.

“I’m not trying to point the finger of blame here, let’s just understand what it is that the issues are for [Mr Tamaki] and his Man Up programme and let’s see if we can pull something together which helps the government achieve its objectives which is reducing family violence and reducing the number of folks going to prison.”

The Employment Minister Willie Jackson said if the Destiny Church went through the proper channels then they could be able to get into prisons and get the funding they needed.

“I think that’s the problem here is that they actually haven’t gone through a formal process in terms of applications, so let’s see what they come up with.”

Brian Tamaki however appeared unwilling to play ball.

“Go through the channels? Well how come the Prime Minister can assign $30 million without even consulting to the Papua New Guinean Government and they misused it, and they have billions of dollars for pine trees and I’m talking about just a little bit of money for people.”

“I’ve been waiting for 20 years and I’m doing the business without taxpayers’ money.”

I guess tithing is different to taxing.

Kelvin Davis responded:

Tamaki says that not allowing his programmes to be used in prisons is a breach of human rights and a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. He insists he has applied to have them be used.

 

Three strikes to be struck out in two weeks

The three strikes law will be repealed in two weeks, according to Newshub.

This was signalled last November: Justice Minister Andrew Little to repeal three strikes law

“Three strikes – that thing’s gone. You do get this picture of things that are quite cosmetic or things that were big things that can be unpicked pretty much straight away.”

“After eight years of being in effect it hasn’t made a blind bit of difference to serious offending rates which continue to climb,” he says. We have one of the fastest growing prison populations in the Western world. Simply put, it’s not working. We have to find a better way to reduce offending and keep communities safer.”

Today: Govt to repeal three strikes law in two weeks

The three strikes law will be repealed in two weeks, and Justice Minister will also push for sentences shorter than two years to be served as home detention.

The Government is preparing to soften bail, sentencing and parole laws, and Newshub can reveal it’s already discussing how to reassure the public in the event of a high-profile crime.

The Government documents also highlight the extent of the prison overcrowding crisis, saying if big improvements aren’t made in a year, there will be “a failure of the prison system.”

At the next Cabinet meeting in twelve days the Justice Minister will seek approval to repeal three strikes, and push for shorter sentences to be served on home detention.

Andrew Little:

“Repeal of the three strikes, because I think there’s an acceptance now that actually it just doesn’t work.

“If you have a sentence of two years or less you’re at the lower end of the offending, you might have offended before but you’re at the lower end. We can still do something with you. So it’s better that you’re out in the community.

Tova O’Brien:

He’s also planning to revive the last Labour Government’s sentencing council which National scrapped. It provides guidance to judges to prevent tougher sentences.

And people bailed on electronic monitoring will be able to count their bail time as part of their sentence.

Little:

“We’ve had thirty years of this, the only way to deal with crime, get tough on crime, get really hard, lock them up for longer.

Actually it’s not working.

He is also talking about a transition type prison in which prisoners with good records nearing the end of their sentences can live in a flat-like facility where they shop and cook for themselves.

“All it could take though is one person on bail murdering someone to unravel your reforms”. Little:

“Yeah and look, that’s always a possibility. It’s a possibility right now. We know there are people on bail who are offending right now.”

The Government is aware that their changes will need to be seen to be an improvement. They plan on preparing PR strategies for when things go wrong, as they inevitably will with some prisoners or people on bail.

 

 

 

Report on dealing with escalating prison numbers

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, released a report last week on the growing prison population.

Convicted prisoner numbers have been increasing, in lpart due to tougher sentencing, but the biggest rise recently is of remand prisoners.

The report (PDF) – Using evidence to build a better justice system: The challenge of rising prison costs


Executive Summary

  1. Crime, especially violent crime, hurts individuals and society. Both direct and indirect victims of crime may suffer untold consequences that can endure for years and can even affect next generations. Those who do not suffer personally may nonetheless acquire negative perceptions of people or places because of criminal activity. The net effect of such perceptions can change societal attitudes creating a more negative environment. This is a loss for everyone. These perceptions can be disproportionately magnified by advocacy groups, media and political agendas.
  2. Policy responses are often viewed in binary terms: tough or soft on crime. This simplistic duality has long had political resonance, but its impact on our prison system is a major concern. The New Zealand prison population is increasing and is one of the highest in the OECD at a time when crime rates are actually decreasing. This can only be explained by the systemic and cumulative impact of successive policy decisions over time, often in response to public demand and political positioning.
  3. Successive governments of different political orientations have supported a progressively retributive rather than a restorative approach to crime with unsupported claims that prisons can solve the problems of crime. As a result, the costs of prisons far exceed those justified by the need to protect the public. We keep imprisoning more people in response to dogma not data, responding to shifting policies and media panics, instead of evidence-based approaches to prevention, intervention, imprisonment and rehabilitation. This does not diminish the importance of incarceration for a subset of individuals so as to protect the public.
  4. The strong evidence base related to what fuels the prison ‘pipeline’ suggests that prisons are extremely expensive training grounds for further offending, building offenders’ criminal careers by teaching them criminal skills, damaging their employment, accommodation and family prospects, and compounding mental health and substance use issues. On release, even after a short
    period of imprisonment, for example on remand, offenders have been found to reintegrate poorly to the community. Furthermore, this does nothing to reassure victims that the risk of harm is being effectively managed by the justice system.
  5. It is now well understood that prisons act as recruitment centres for gangs (especially for young offenders) and underpin the illegal drug trade. Imprisonment leaves those incarcerated with high rates of undiagnosed and untreated alcohol/drug addictions and mental illness. They have a negative impact on the next generation, given that a high percentage of people in prison are parents.
    These issues disproportionately affect Māori.
  6. Other countries, such as Finland, have significantly reduced their incarceration rates without crime rates rising. There is strong scientific evidence for putting resources into crime prevention, early intervention (identifying and mitigating risk), and a smarter
    approach to rehabilitation and subsequent social inclusion for those already in the criminal-justice system – not for building
    more prisons.
  7. To assist in such an approach, there must be adequate investment in piloting and evaluating early intervention and prevention initiatives. With leadership and knowledge, we can fundamentally transform the justice system, reduce victimisation and recidivism and make prisons only a part of a much more proactive and effective systemic response to a complex problem.

Much of this stuff has been known for yonks, but there has been a reluctance to address the causes, with public and political pressure resulting in more and more money being shovelled in to longer and more incarceration.

Punitive imprisonment versus rehabilitation

New Zealand has one the highest imprisonment rates in the developed world, and despite a target of reducing re-offending by 2017 by 25% (that won’t be met) $1 billion more will need to be spent in the next five years to house all the prisoners.

The public psyche is punitive, with pressure on politicians to lock more offenders up for longer. That will cost more – and that cost is not just borne by the country (that is, all of us), there is a high cost to families and children affected by imprisoned parents.

New Prime Minister Bill English wants to apply his ‘social investment’ theories to prison numbers and re-offending rates. He has signalled a change in approach by removing Judith Collins as Minister of Corrections and replacing her with Louise Upston, who is also now Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment.

Fixing the  lack of education and work skills that are prevalent in the prisoner population is an important part of rehabilitation and reducing re-offending.

The Government doesn’t just have to turn around rising imprisonment rates, it also has to turn around punitive public preferences. Neither will be easy.

Dr Jarrod Gilbert at NZH: Bill English faces tough job shifting the ‘lock ’em up’ penal policy

For a number of years Bill English has quietly championed a prison reform approach that should appeal to fiscal conservatives and social liberals alike. As prime minister, he now needs to sell it.

At stake is a billion dollar spend on a new prison caused by a prison population that recently hit 10,000.

In 2012, the government and the Department of Corrections set a bold target of reducing reoffending by 25per cent by 2017.

They are going to fall well short. Undoubtedly, many people will make a big deal of that failure, and perhaps that’s reasonable, but it ought be applauded for its bold intent.

It was the ambition of the target that challenged corrections staff – from policy analysts to prison guards – to fundamentally rethink what they were doing. Instead of simply containing prisoners until their release, they were instructed to think about creating an environment and initiatives that rehabilitate them.

It was never going to be a quick or easy thing to fix, but rehabilitation needs to be addressed.

Nearly three quarters of released prisoner were reconvicted of an offence within five years, and more than half were returning to prison.

In many cases if the underlying causes of crime aren’t resolved then offending is likely to continue.

More importantly, reducing reoffending wouldn’t just reduce costs, it would also mean fewer victims of crime. There is perhaps no clearer example of a classic win/win.

That’s something that the public need to understand.

On this basis, the government launched a reform agenda, but it hasn’t taken the country with it. And this is a mistake. Without building a broad public consensus on the approach’s goals and merits, it is at risk from moral panics and knee-jerk politics.

Our base instinct to punish criminals is natural and punishment is an important function of prison.

Lock-em-up proponents tend to be more vocal, more pushy for more imprisonment.

But often there will be no sentence long enough to placate distressed victims or their loved ones, so as a society we must weigh-up those desires with the interests of the public good.

Media play a major part in this. It’s common for them to push the victims of crime to speak after sentencing, and in most cases unsurprisingly they usually say sentences were not sufficient. This just feeds the longer sentence pressures on politicians.

And here’s where we need to start the conversation and build a consensus around the balance between punishment and rehabilitation.

Extending the debate beyond punishment may not be easy. New Zealand has been sold the idea that longer sentences are the solution by both major parties for years.

Populist tougher sentence policies pander to what voters seem to want.

Penal populists say harsh sentences act as deterrence by making people think twice before committing crime. Deterrence arguments aren’t without merit but studies show that likelihood of apprehension is a far greater deterrent than severe punishments.

So wouldn’t an extra billion dollars be better spent on policing rather than on prisons?

But media and public pressure works against this.

When Philip Smith escaped to Brazil in 2014, for example, there was an immediate clampdown on temporary releases that allow prisoners to work outside the wire in paid employment.

Despite the escape being a consequence of corruption rather than policy, the Department of Corrections feared a public backlash and restricted temporary releases even though they were widely seen as a successful rehabilitation tool.

One high profile escape adversely affected many others.

Having removed Judith Collins from the Corrections portfolio, English has very publicly signalled that the harder-edged and populist approach does not curry his favour.

But can he change public attitudes in the way Judith Collins and others so cleverly played up to them?

Can English convince the country that although the Department of Correction’ re-offending target won’t be met, its modest gains and the change of thinking it represents is nevertheless the best hope of bringing the prison population down?

That won’t be easy.

I don’t know the answer to that; the punitive approach in the New Zealand psyche is so strong we’ve become one of the most imprisoned populations in the developed world without even flinching.

The loudest calls are for even longer prison sentences.

Do we really want more prisons?

Or can we see the sense in more policing, more rehabilitation and less offending?

One thing that Gilbert doesn’t mention is drug and alcohol links to a lot of offending. Addressing addictions is a critical part of rehabilitation.

‘Tax and family’ package planned

Tax cuts may still happen but these seem likely to be limited by the need to spend on things such as earthquake repairs and prisons, plus signalled increased assistance for families.

The Government seems to be reacting to the growing discontent over inequality and the difficulties faced by the poorest in New Zealand, of which there is a substantial number who really struggle for a variety of reasons.

John Key has revealed the Government is preparing a ‘tax and family’ package.

National will be wanting to deliver on promises of tax cuts but seem to be wanting to balance that with further assistance to the less well off.

But large spending items such as prisons and on earthquake repairs will have an impact.

Vernon Small at Stuff: John Key reveals plans for ‘tax and family’ package, but quake might affect plans

The Kaikoura earthquakes have not demolished the Government’s tax cut plans but they may force Treasury to delay its half-year update while it crunches the numbers, Prime Minister John Key said.

Speaking to reporters in Peru, where he is attending the Apec Summit, he also revealed the Government is preparing a “tax and family” package for the 2017 campaign and beyond.

Key said the earthquakes were a factor that could have some impact on the Government’s plans “and we can’t say that wouldn’t”.

But they would not completely rule out the Government’s ability “to consider a range of things that we would want to either campaign on or carry out in a fourth term,” Key said.

“We’ve identified from our own perspective if there was more money where would be the kinds of areas we want to go, not what is the make up … for instance, of a tax or family package, what is the make up of other expenditure we want?”

Cash would be required for capital items, such as fixing roads and other infrastructure, but they were not recurring costs.

The difference for the “tax and family package” was that it was a recurring cost over future years.

As usual there will be a balancing act between essential expenditure, current and imposed, and policy driven changes – with an obvious eye on next year’s election.

 

Building prisons is taking crime seriously?

Morning Report: Is Govt’s $1B figure for building 1,800 new prison beds far too low? We crunch the numbers with Judith Collins.

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Interview (audio): Corrections Minister Collins on the prison muster blowout

It may more the consequence of reacting to pressure to increase prison sentences.

A minority of prisoners are straight out bad and may be beyond rehabilitation.

But many of those in prison are failures of our society. Locking away those failures doesn’t address the causes.

 

Touting for prison business?

Cameron Slater makes some good point ion his post TIME FOR NATIONAL TO STOP REACTING TO UNION LEAKS, AND TAKE CONTROL:

This Serco hit has been long in the making, and once again, TV3 and the Herald acting as Dirty Media are at the forefront of the Dirty Politics hit to assist Labour.

It’s now forced the Prime Minister onto the stage and he’s taken a position that Serco is going to be history if it is found to be incompetent.

Just what the Union wants to hear.

Because they, and TV3, the Herald and Labour have a long list of incidents to work through.

If that happens what’s the bet they will be all targeting Serco managed prisons.

But here is the thing…if Labour cared so much about the care of prisoners why have they sat for so long on this information while more prisoners got injured…and why did they lie and make up stories when the truth is bad enough.

This could be tough on Davis, he has been trying to raise attention but was until recently seemingly ignored by the Government.

Kelvin Davis’ claims regarding one prisoner are completely false but we haven’t heard the media baying for his apology have we?

I don’t think it’s been proven one way or the other yet.

But the problem for Labour is this…no one cares. I challenge the media to find someone on the streets of Auckland who give a flying fig about whether or not some prisoner got the bash inside.

Prison welfare is a real problem not just at Serco but in prisons around the country. See Government is Hiding the Truth Behind the Serco Debate. But in that post Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara makes these points:

  • Prisons are the way they are because the public is largely uninvolved, and is not actually interested in what goes on inside.
  • Most of the general public don’t actually care about what happens to prisoners – they get what they deserve … unless violence is put in the public face, as in the recent Serco revelations.

So Slater may well be right on that. The he finishes with:

If Serco were smart they’d be hiring their own Dirty Politics crew to counter the unions.

Sounds like he’s touting for business.