Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Read: Thinking - solutions to mass imprisonment

The logo of the Australian Greens political party.Image via Wikipedia

Read: Thinking’ – solutions to mass imprisonment.

by David Clendon

Last night I spent Parliament’s dinner break at the launch of a new website, an initiative of the Robson Hanan Trust led by Kim Workman.
To quote from the introduction on the site:
“Rethinking Crime and Punishment” is a strategic initiative to increase public debate about the use of prison and alternative forms of punishment in New Zealand.
In the western world, New Zealand is second only to the United States in the rate at which it locks people up. Whatever your view of prison, we think there is a need for fresh thinking and a much wider public discussion.”
We are spending an awful lot of money on Corrections, to the extent that it fast becoming one of the largest single items on the country’s budget.
Most of it goes on building and maintaining prisons and keeping more people locked up for longer.  This is a really dumb way to spend money – wasteful of capital, wasteful of resources, and worst of all wasteful and destructive of human potential.
We in the Greens are believers in evidence-based decision making and practice, and this government often claims to be equally committed to an evidence based approach to policy.
Actions speak louder than words however, and their drive to spend more and more on containment and a hopelessly inadequate amount on rehabilitation, drug and alcohol treatment, reintegration services, and other real solutions, reflects their confusion.
‘Rethinking’ is a project committed to presenting well researched and clearly presented information that points to how we can keep people out of prison, make our communities safer and more equitable, save a great deal of money over time, and make a lot of peoples’ lives much better.
For anyone wanting to be better informed to advocate for change, or for those who think the current system is working but are willing to engage with evidence and arguments to the contrary, I encourage you to subscribe to the newsletter accessible on the website.
I hope our minister of finance has a look too.  He said in a speech recently:
 “The politicians’ task is to turn the objective of community safety into some high level outcomes, like reduced prison numbers, or reduced youth offending rates. The public service needs to think about the governance and accountability structure that can drive decisions to achieve these outcomes.
We have any amount of policy analysis and any amount of public support for success. But there is very little accumulated wisdom on what governance and accountability will deliver the desired policy result.”
I think that is a cop out.  There is any amount of information, research, analysis, and examples of how to achieve those ‘high level outcomes’, and a lot of it will appear on this new site.
What is missing is the political will, the courage to ignore the populist rantings of the ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ brigade, and to invest in some long term solutions rather than spending on short sighted responses that will continue to fail.
KR says: Gives you something to really think about, doesn't it? Have a good read!
Acknowledgements: David Clendon/ Frogblog
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