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Greens still opposed to US private prison model

Brash's prescription for a violent Americanised NZ
July 5 2004
Press Release: Green Party
The Doctor's prescription for a violent, Americanised NZ

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says Don Brash's 'law and order' speech this afternoon is just the latest step in his programme to Americanise New Zealand.

"The United States has the highest proportional rate of imprisonment in the developed world and as a result it also has the highest levels of violent crime," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"When today's speech is put alongside his US-inspired policy of making benefits a short-term measure, one can only conclude that a Brash led government would make New Zealand a more violent and dangerous place. He signals that the money for more prisons would come from 'welfare reform', meaning benefit cuts. In itself that would guarantee a burgeoning prison population as social and economic marginalisation increases and people steal to feed their families.

"Few disagree that the most violent and unredeemable criminals should be locked away for life, but the law now provides for that. There is nothing left for Dr Brash to change in that regard. But such inmates are a small minority, the ones prison is really for.

"There are fundamental contradictions in Dr Brash's prescription for controlling crime. He acknowledges that prison makes people worse and that the longer people are in prison the more likely they are to re-offend. Yet he says more imprisonment is the answer.

"He criticises the lack of resources for parole monitoring, and the Greens would agree with that. But instead of better funding, he wants to abolish parole and with it the best hope of reintegrating people into the community. The figures speak for themselves: two years after discretionary release on parole, even with the present inadequate resourcing, re-offending is 15 per cent. Two years after mandatory release or no parole, re-offending is 28 per cent. He pays lip service to early intervention and rehabilitation, but makes no commitment to ensuring either actually occur.

"The Greens also agree with Dr Brash when he says the profit must be taken out of crime, especially for gangs, and that time is being wasted on minor offences. Long-standing Green policy would achieve both goals by destroying the black market for cannabis, from which gangs make most of their money. So far Dr Brash hasn't publicly supported that practical proposal.

"But not only criminals make money out of crime. Private prisons are one way in which 'honest' business profits from crime, so Dr Brash's law and order and welfare proposals would certainly ensure that one item on his privatisation wish list can be delivered with a healthy profit attached. The Greens remain implacably opposed to anyone other than the State imprisoning people.

"Political parties have fanned the flame of the public's fear of crime for generations, so as to present themselves as the saviours. Tragically, if the 1989 Roper Report, which focussed on stopping re-offending through habilitation and planned reintegration into the community, had been implemented crime would now be much less and people would be more secure. Dr Brash's speech today is just the latest episode in this sorry history," said Ms Fitzsimons.

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