South Australia has an election coming up in a couple of weeks and none of the four major parties (Labor, Liberal, Greens or SA Best) have come out with compelling law and order policies. So it’s heartening to see that across the Tasman, there are more overt signs of progress.
A couple of years ago, the then New Zealand government pledged $1 billion to establish 1,000s more prison beds to address the increasing prison population. Since then, NZ has a new government which has inherited that promise. An open letter from 32 NZ academics has highlighted the ridiculousness of following through and as a result on 22 February, the Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, is pushing for a shift away from penal populism to evidence-based practice.
He reportedly said:
‘so-called law-and-order’ policies have been a 30-year failure and locking up more people with longer sentences hasn’t made New Zealand safer. ‘New Zealand needs to completely change the way criminal justice works. It is a big challenge we are facing. It’s not an issue that’s been a short time in the making’ and it ‘follows 30 years of public policy-making, public discourse, that says we need tougher sentences, need more sentencing, need people serving longer sentences and I think, frankly, criminalising more behaviour.’
The NZ Cabinet will apparently decide on the proposed upgrade of Waikeria Prison (an increase of 1,500 beds is proposed) sometime this month.
(Image credit: Michael Craig, the Kituku High Risk Unit in the High Security building at Waikeria Prison, Waikato.)