Saturday, July 18, 2009

ZenTiger No justice is no justice at all

The Chief Justice of New Zealand, Dame Sian Elias has issued her prescription for justice. There is one point in particular that I have issue with:
[42] My last suggestion may be controversial. I do not know whether it is practical or politically acceptable, but I think it needs to be considered. We need to look at direct tools to manage the prison population if overcrowding is not to cause significant safety and human rights issues. Other countries use executive amnesties to send prisoners into the community early to prevent overcrowding. Such solutions will not please many. And I am not well placed to assess whether they are feasible. But the alternatives and the costs of overcrowding need to be weighed.
This idea shows a weird disconnect from the point of justice. This idea follows from her argument that society is to blame for these people in the first place. So she wants to let them out into society. Give them amnesty. Cancel their sentences. Forgive their sins, even if they show no repentance. It's ludicrous.

Punishing people may not rehabilitate them, but not punishing people at all will only create more victims.

Remember the victims Chief Justice? Some are indeed the people that become criminals because evil things are done to them. It follows therefore that if you increase the number of criminals on the streets, you will increase the number of victims.

Remember the victims Chief Justice? Some make choices that lead them to your court, and some, in spite of all the wrongs they suffer, you never see them. How will they feel when you let the people out early, only to commit crimes again?

Remember the victims Chief Justice? "We live in a climate where every mistake becomes a scandal" says Dame Sian. And so it should be. You cannot write off the murder of Karl Kuchenbecker as "a mistake". It's not going to help to escalate this to a "grave error".

No justice is no justice at all.

If the Chief Justice is out of ideas, let me advance a couple. What goes on inside Prison? Is it an environment of rehabilitation, penance, hard work and the opportunity to find redemption? Instead of a library of learning, do we instead allow criminals to spend their days playing Grand Theft Auto IV, complete with rape scenes on the Playstation? On big screen TV's?

Do we turn soft criminals into hardened criminals by not punishing crimes in prison? Why, apparently, have there been no prosecutions for prison rape? Why is it we read things like this: One in six inmates was aware of a sexual assault in jail in the past year, one in three had used drugs on the inside and half of inmates considered it 'easy' to get them. And find that the number of prosecutions for these offences approaches zero?

No justice is no justice at all.

When faced with the problem of rehabilitation, the Chief Justice suggests that the whole process of going before a court, being tried and sentenced is just a pointless waste of time, and it could have saved us more money for the cops to let them out shortly after being caught.

That kind of idea has a certain insanity to it that needs to be countered strongly.

This does not mean I'm against rehabilitation. I'm not against reviewing sentencing laws. I'm not against reviewing how we handle non-violent offences. These reviews seem to happen periodically anyway. In any event, they are all separate issues to this discussion. First we must acknowledge that the way forward is not to go backwards, simply because it is another direction.

For the sake of the victims, and future victims, we must remember that no justice is no justice at all.

See also: End of month clearance sale at Rimutaka prison

Hat tip to Contra Celsum, the links in the post lead you there.

11 comment(s):

KG said...

Yes indeed! A fine post and I'll put up a link to it at CR.

squaredrive said...

I think you do Dame Sian a disservice here, Zen. The quote you have given clearly quotes Dame Sian saying:

"I do not know whether it is practical or politically acceptable, but I think it needs to be considered."

and

"...I am not well placed to assess whether they [early release options, etc] are feasible."

So, she is clearly floating ideas for discussion and further research (which surely the Minister of Justice should be funding, if they are serious about improving the system, right?).

You then claim Dame Sian wants us to "Give them amnesty. Cancel their sentences.", but I think this is caused by her poor choice of the word 'amnesty'. What they have done in the US is actually 'executive clemency' rather than "executive amnesties to send prisoners into the community early to prevent overcrowding".

Now, whether such clemency is justified, cost effective, and provides a fair balance between serving the needs of victims and prisoner's rehabilitation, is a matter for study. Which is what the Chief Justice called for.

And I didn't see where Dame Sian made "...her argument that society is to blame for these people in the first place." I suspect that she was just acknowledging societal impacts on offenders that increase the probability of offending, like poor education.

As an aside, you said "Forgive their sins, even if they show no repentance." My (possibly erroneous) understanding of sin & forgiveness was that forgiveness is a grace shown to offenders that does not require that offender to have shown any remorse first.

For example, St. Maria Goretti forgave her attempted rapist & killer, which led to his eventual repentance (after visions of her), which in turn led to her mother forgiving him.

Interesting topic. Just that I would rather have more illumination than conflagration ;)

ZenTiger said...

Hi Squaredrive.

I'm going to propose a novel idea.

The idea is that when you issue a ludicrous suggestion, you couch it in reasonable terms to soften its blow. You make the tone of your argument moderate and accordingly you engender a certain degree of goodwill that the intent is pure and good, and therefore, the idea has merit.

In reality, the idea is bad. I could argue this point in a quiet and respectful way that invites an open and productive dialog, and essentially it all becomes a typical insipid pseudo-intellectual pile of crap.

I'll give you another example that is of the same extreme, just in the other direction. Because you are a left leaning sort of guy, you might actually find this quite an offensive idea, and not at all conducive to generating fruitful discussion of this complex subject. I shall re quote Dame Sian for this:

[42] My last suggestion may be controversial. I do not know whether it is practical or politically acceptable, but I think it needs to be considered.

We need to look at direct tools to manage the prison population if overcrowding is not to cause significant safety and human rights issues.

Other countries use executions to prevent overcrowding. Let's put a bullet in the brain for everyone in for 5 years or more.

Such solutions will not please many. And I am not well placed to assess whether they are feasible.

But the alternatives and the costs of overcrowding need to be weighed.


If she is floating ideas for discussion that she has no idea about, and as a judge, doesn't doesn't understand the difference between amnesty and clemency, and either way wants to just let people go, then maybe she should do a little more thinking before floating ideas? After all, as Chief Justice of NZ her words, however chosen, will be taken seriously.

I did her the courtesy of taking her seriously, and I've given her the benefit of the doubt that she is a highly intelligent person, trained to be precise in her deliberations and pronouncements.

I've stripped away the fluffy, sugar coated disclaimers around the essence of the idea that lefty's tend to find all so important to give them a way out if the idea goes south and responded to what she said.

And I'm happy not to mince my words, and mask my points in the deliberately vapid illusion of reasonableness and just say what I think.

The idea is ludicrous because it effectively means no justice, and no justice is no justice at all.

ZenTiger said...

I'm going to have to re-do my comment above, it isn't clear enough.

Firstly, though Squaredrive, a minor point: when you say

"And I didn't see where Dame Sian made "...her argument that society is to blame for these people in the first place.""

can I assume you read her entire speech?

squaredrive said...

Touche, Zen!

I really can recommend mincing your words though - it aids digestion. If you will allow me to call a spade a user-propelled soil redistribution implement, then let me say I am quite comfortable with your rephrasing of Dame Sian's speech to suggest executions. Of course, I would expect that any rational examination of the facts around execution would rule it out.

For the record, I tend to agree 'blanket' early release for no other reason than overcrowding seems a poor option. One reason why is that early release of low risk inmates will free up low security jail beds, which won't be suitable to house high risk prisoners.

However, I think you will find Dame Sian is cleverly prompting/positioning the government to a place where they have to do such a periodic review of prison resourcing as you mention. Recall she did a similar thing to then PM Helen Clark to get adequate Supreme Court funding.

Paint a picture of prisoners walking scot free (cue public howls of outrage), and a government suddenly finds the purse strings can be loosened a tad to fund rehab courses, single bunking (to cut prisoner attacks on eah other), etc.

You would expect though, the Ministry of Justice would do regular research & reports into such issues as early release, effectiveness & costs of parole, prison funding vs jailbreaks/assaults, etc.

The closest we have so far is Barry Matthews of Corrections supporting Dame Sian. Hmmm...you're going to have run a Stalinist purge of these pinko CEOs :)

ZenTiger said...

Hi Squaredrive.

I'm going to propose a novel idea.

The idea is that when some people issue a ludicrous suggestion, they like to couch it in reasonable terms to soften its blow.

They like to make the tone of their argument moderate and they use this approach to engender a certain degree of goodwill that the intent is pure and good, and therefore, the idea has merit.

In reality, the idea is bad. Sugar coating it and couching it in a mantle of reasonableness is merely a device to avoid taking responsibility for it, should it be shot down in flames.

So I could play the game too. I could argue the counter point in a quiet and respectful way that invites an open and productive dialog blah blah blah, and essentially it all becomes a typical insipid pseudo-intellectual pile of crap.

I don't want to play that game.

If you think letting people out of prison for the sole reason that the prison is full is a great way to float ideas for discussion, then allow me to float the equal and opposite idea, "just to generate discussion":


[42] My last suggestion may be controversial. I do not know whether it is practical or politically acceptable, but I think it needs to be considered.

We need to look at direct tools to manage the prison population if overcrowding is not to cause significant safety and human rights issues.

Other countries use executions to prevent overcrowding. Let's put a bullet in the brain for everyone in for 5 years or more.

Such solutions will not please many. And I am not well placed to assess whether they are feasible.

But the alternatives and the costs of overcrowding need to be weighed.



Maybe in this situation you might be able to strip back the "I'm not sure but" flowery language and assess my idea as it stands?

Good or bad? You can soften your response with get out clauses etc if you think it will help communicate.

Honestly, if she has no idea, then just say "prisons are full, we have to do something." She didn't though, she came up with a ludicrous idea.

If she is floating ideas for discussion that she has no idea about, and as a judge, doesn't doesn't understand the difference between amnesty and clemency, and either way wants to just let people go, then maybe she should do a little more thinking before floating ideas? After all, as Chief Justice of NZ her words, however chosen, will be taken seriously.

I did her the courtesy of taking her seriously, and I've given her the benefit of the doubt that she is a highly intelligent person, trained to be precise in her deliberations and pronouncements.

I've stripped away the fluffy, sugar coated disclaimers around the essence of the idea that lefty's tend to find all so important to give them a way out if the idea goes south and responded to what she said.

And I'm happy not to mince my words, and mask my points in the deliberately vapid illusion of reasonableness and just say what I think.

The idea is ludicrous because it effectively means no justice, and no justice is no justice at all.


PS: Also, I didn't just criticise this idea, but offered some new areas of discussion. What did you think of my points?

ZenTiger said...

Rats, didn't post my edited comment in time for your rejoinder. Oh well, apart from confusing the natives, I'll leave them both for posterity.

Re your points:

However, I think you will find Dame Sian is cleverly prompting/positioning the government to a place where they have to do such a periodic review of prison resourcing as you mention.

I think she was a little too clever, if all she wants is more funding.

I'm pretty close to thinking such comments display a serious lapse of judgment. I'm wondering if the only reason some-one might get off a case of clearly "unreasonable force" in the case of child abuse dressed up as discipline is because she thinks the prison is full.

The paper today had a couple of great stories of criminals with 100+ convictions, one sentenced harshly after threatening the family of a judge, with a note that they had racked up 40+convictions whilst out on bail. So, go to jail eventually once you get around to threatening a judge's security? Is that the message we want to see?

The other was the burglar with 140 convictions, the last for breaking into John Key's place. "He's a nice boy (age 37), it's the P"

No doubt, it may well be the P. Not necessarily a reason to let him go just because the prison is full.

I don't like the idea of people playing politics with justice to get extra funding. It could be a worthwhile lesson for people to be taken at face value, if it leads to some more careful consideration of their own motives.

However, the sense I get from her speech is that these are genuinely held beliefs and ideas. Some of them are good, but hardly new or novel.

Again, I wonder why the points JT made (my links about prison rape and lack of prosecution) are being ignored in the first place. This looks like a better place to start.

I'll get to my ideas on forgiveness later - perhaps in a post.

squaredrive said...

Aaargh! Computer crash while previewing looong comment answering above points by you, Zen (curse you M$ - should have used linux!!!). If you are able to view my (now lost) preview & post it Zen, please do.

Quick answers to above questions:
* yes, have read full Dame Sian speech - the link to the pdf of the speech is at Scoop at:
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0907/S00170.htm

* Liked your point about 'luxury' in prisons, but think it is caused by govt finding it cheaper to give a few Playstations out to keep inmates from making trouble, instead of providing adequate prison staffing for rehab & metal health/education programmes.

* Agree inprison offences should be tackled, but think Dame Sian didn't want to get trapped into pushing for more prosecution of prisoners who lack the life skills to change their own behaviour *consistently* so they don't offend over long time period. She hints at this mid-speech.

* Burglars at John Key's place - bwahahaha. Epic faiul by DPS - they need better work skills, not better work stories!

ZenTiger said...

Sadly, I cant see your comment Squaredrive. I really hate it when I lose a comment like that too. It's happened a few times, and it always seems to be the big ones.

So quick points back:

* Given you've read Dame Sian's speech, I would have thought the first few pages adequately makes my point that if people go from "innocent babes" to career criminals, then society is to blame, in that we have not been able to prevent the causes and cure the problem. I suspect the liberal left policies are responsible for part of the problem, but that's a discussion for another day.

* Whilst you probably realise this, I'd like to clarify that I fully agree with your point about PlayStations, and that was what I was trying to say. It's not so much that it's a luxury item, it's more that they are providing negative distractions to rehabilitation. And providing such items simply to avoid making trouble is EXACTLY the attitude that is failing the prisoners. Like the smacking debate, another example where a liberal mind set finds it easier to avoid setting boundaries and enforcing them. Like children though, this is what criminals require. Many are there because they are too immature to become adults, in terms of accepting responsibility and learning self control. Pandering to this only makes things worse. Non-fiction books, rehab programs, and more - not a violent video game!

* Yes, Dame Sian would prefer to set them free for the sole reason the prison is crowded than actually take the harder route of punishing and subsequently preventing people for wrong doing. In doing this, she creates more criminals, because those that are trying to go straight who have wrong done to them see that there is no justice, so they just accept that no-one cares about THEM because they tacitly support EVIL by their indifference (or bleeding heart liberalism to excuse such indifference). I probably need to push this point even harder, even more ardently because her entire speech pushes the other view, and I don't accept that view UNTIL people who see injustice done to them see that it will be punished and they are worth protecting. Even criminals who are wronged.

* The burglary actually took place a year ago. For some reason, it takes a year to go to court for a slam dunk case. God help us. Another failure of the system that could do much to improve matters.


Anyway, appreciate you comments.

ZenTiger said...

PS: the burglary took place a year ago, meaning before Key had DPS parked outside by the rubbish bin; blue car on Monday's, Grey car Tuesday to Friday, and a van on the weekends and 4 CCTV units, two currently pointing N/NE and the others with a huge blindspot every 4 seconds due to the angle of the gate post.



OK, the last part was a joke.

MK said...

"Remember the victims Chief Justice?"

Those scumbags never do Zen, them and their political allies, they never gave a rats ass about the victims and they never will.

Just about everything that comes out of their mouths is just a fancier or more confusing way of going soft on criminal scum.

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