We are criminal justice researchers calling on the government to stop the build of a new prison at Waikeria. The proposal to spend a billion dollars on this venture is at odds with its explicit commitment to reduce prison numbers. To allow time for a national conversation about alternatives, we propose a moratorium on all new prison construction.
Never before have so many New Zealanders been incarcerated. Since 1986, the number of prisoners has swelled from 2,700 to 10,700, a four-fold increase. This puts us out of step with the rest of the world. While our crime rates are broadly similar to other countries in the OECD, our rate of 220 prisoners per 100,000 population is well above the OECD average.
The rapid expansion of our prisons disregards the overwhelming evidence that people sent to prison are more likely to re-offend than people with similar offending given community sentences. Contrary to the official goal of “corrections”, prisons foster criminality and often intensify the problems they are designed to address. Continue reading Stop Prison Building: An Open Letter to the NZ Government→
In recent years, politicians and senior public service managers, while openly acknowledging the differential between Māori and non-Maori, have resisted the idea that there is any deliberate ethnic bias, or evidence of personal racism in the system.
There is general agreement that adverse early-life experiences, and social and environmental factors contribute significantly to high Māori, which in turn impact on offending patterns. However, while there is evidence of structural discrimination within the criminal justice system, and allegations of personal racism, there is a general reluctance to conduct research into these areas. The absence of research thus enables politicians and senior public servants to deny that such issues exist, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary.
The idea of systemic bias within the criminal justice system has been resisted by government agencies over recent years. When the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, Co-Leader of the Māori Party, launched the party’s Justice Policy on 1 October 2011, he spoke about the structural discrimination against Māori within the criminal justice system in general, and the Police in particular. There was an expected public backlash against the comments and, when invited to comment, Rethinking Crime and Punishment issued a media release citing research which supported Dr Sharple’s view. Dr Sharples was interviewed on Q and A on the 9 Oct. On the 14th October, Commissioner Peter Marshall came to the defence of his staff in an interview on Te Karere. He did not agree there was a racial bias in Police dealings with Maori.
The issue was vigorously discussed on talkback radio, and most of the comment supported the Commissioner’s position. Some commentators reproached Dr Sharples for his claims, and the then Minister of Police, the Hon Judith Collins, publicly chastised him for being ‘out of order’. Continue reading Structural Discrimination→
In 1972, in a swamp near Motunui, Taranaki, a local man discovered five buried wooden carved panels, removed them to his home, and subsequently sold them to a visiting English antiquities dealer for NZ$6,000. The dealer illegally took them out of New Zealand, ignoring the requirement to apply for an export permit, which he surely would not have received.
In New York in 1973, he sold the panels to the famous collector George Ortiz for US$65,000. Ortiz shipped the panels back to his home in Geneva. A stipulation of this dodgy deal was that Ortiz was not allowed to show the panels to any New Zealand archaeologists for a period of two years following the sale: enough time presumably for any heat to have begun to die down, or so it might be thought. In fact these were the ‘Motunui Panels’, which since the 1970s have been the subject of an ongoing debate that has only recently come to a resolution. They are thought to have originally lined the walls of a pātaka, and were speculated to have been deliberately buried in the swamp for safekeeping by Te Āti Awa around the time of a battle at Motunui in 1822. Continue reading Trafficking Culture in New Zealand and Beyond→
The final video from the VUW public criminology symposium is now available on our Facebook page here. This is Ian Loader, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford. He reflects on the main themes of the book he wrote with Richard Sparks, ‘Public Criminology?‘, and talks about how some of the issues have developed since the book was published.
Why are amounts received from begging not income for tax purposes but are income for the purposes of income testing welfare benefits?
On 20th February 2017, Frank Lovich was convicted of fraud for begging while receiving a benefit. Among other charges, Mr Lovich was convicted under section 15 of the Summary Offences Act 1981. Under this legislation, a person is ‘liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $1,000 who solicits, gathers, or collects alms, subscriptions, or contributions by means of any false pretence’.
While the Police have indicated they are not going to commence prosecution proceedings against all welfare recipients who may engage in begging activity, an important question arises from this situation: Are we, yet again, treating people on welfare differently from other people in society? Continue reading Begging and Benefits: When Is Income ‘Income’?→