When all else fails; law and order | The Jackal

11 Sep 2014

When all else fails; law and order

The National party has been pulling out all the stops to get re-elected on September 20. So far they've tried to bribe voters with a faux tax cut, announced more funding for the defence force (after cutting their budget by a third), erected a few million hoardings all over the country, finally accepted the recommendation to reduce ACC levies, turned a sod or two and basically paraded a smiling and waving John Key around the place to get bailed up in malls by people who are unhappy about his dirty politics.

Perhaps the biggest announcement however that was squarely aimed at gaining the reactionary vote was made yesterday when John Key and Anne Tolley visited the Wiri men's prison in South Auckland. All prisons will be working prisons they happily proclaimed, unable to control their right wing delight at the prospect of implementing hard labour for all inmates.

Yesterday, One News reported:

More prisoners will be put to work and ex-prisoners will receive post-release drug addiction treatment if National is returned to government.

Corrections Spokesperson Anne Tolley says the working prisons model will be expanded from the current three to 16 prisons by 2017, meaning all public prisons in New Zealand will become full working prisons.

Every eligible prisoner will have a structured 40 hour-a-week timetable to include work experience, skills training and education, alongside drug and alcohol treatment and other rehabilitation programmes, Mrs Tolley says.

Of course the National party aren’t really concerned at all with helping prisoners develop a good work ethic. Instead, the National party is only concerned with appearing to give a damn while the real mechanism behind their policy is glossed over in what is nothing more than another stupid law and order PR stunt.

What they fail to inform us of is that prisoners will be paid a miserly 25 cents per hour while having to meet all the costs of their work experience. That’s $10 per week that they won’t see a dime of while the prison system further dehumanizes them to ensure that they cannot cope with the real world upon release. They won't be eligible for parole unless they work either, which makes this policy particularly archaic!

The other problem is that an ex-prisoner is unlikely to become employed once they get out, mainly because the National party has engineered a high unemployment rate to ensure wages are kept down.

While National on the face of it are claiming that they have the prisoner’s best interests at heart, these incarcerated people are simply being used to further undermine businesses that have to actually pay their employees wages. How many business owners are going to be happy about competing with a prison run business that doesn’t have the same overheads in the form of wages?

The questionable way the prison system allocates contracts to businesses it has a vested interest in while profits are privatized is something that the National party will be at pains to ignore. They might claim that the prisoner’s wages will go towards their incarceration costs, but we won’t see any reduction in the billions of dollars in taxpayer funds that also go towards ensuring prisoners are kept behind bars.

With around half of all prisoners of Maori dissent, this policy also does nothing to address the institutional racism that is endemic within our justice system. It will neither reduce reoffending rates nor ensure that prisoners can adjust back into society. In fact National is ignoring the main Department of Correction's recommendations on these matters, which state:

Department of Correction's analysis of criminal justice statistics indicates that a range of developmental and early-age risk factors create a pathway that increases the risk of (among other things) criminal involvement. These risk factors include:

a. family structure, context, and processes (being born to young mothers, a lack of family stability, a family environment in which conflict and violence is common, and being exposed to harsh punishment)

b. individual characteristics and experiences of the developing child and adolescent (factors affecting the child's neurological development, and psychological temperament)

c. educational participation, engagement and achievement (school absence, early leaving age, and failure to achieve qualifications)

d. the emergence of developmental disorders (childhood conduct disorder, early onset of antisocial behaviour, and use/abuse of alcohol and other substances).

National might claim that they’re increasing prisoner’s ability to acquire an education, however they spent a good part of their first term in power slashing prison education programs left right and centre.

This latest attempt to appear progressive is nothing more than another policy that isn’t honest about its real intentions. National's working prisons announcement is just another veneer on what is really a cold and calculated attempt to further reduce people's wages.