Oh dear! Are we seriously required to now believe that in 2021 New Zealand, our “guests” of Her Majesty in prison can demand conditions to their liking?
Fair enough, if the conditions were/are as bad as these criminals claim, then yes, the government (who? You don’t mean Jacinda? Or Kelvin - Minister of Corrections - by any chance, do you?) is duty bound to ensure that even these anti-social nasties are at least entitled to clean water, a bed and a feed three times a day, more in fact than many impoverished but law-abiding others in New Zealand are experiencing .
But hold on. This group of 16 or so criminals, we are told, include at least five “531” deportees from Australia, amongst other gang members who armed themselves, abused and threatened Police and Corrections staff, and threatened further violence if approached. How do or can we expect the authorities to respond to such violence?
Let’s start at the beginning again.
We all expect people in our society to act reasonably towards each other and to contribute in each of our own ways to a harmonious and positive nation. Human rights are basic rights, no question and are a measure of our decency as a society.
But there have always been and likely to always be, those members of society who will not “play by the rules”, committing serious crimes against other members of society for their own selfish reasons.
Traditionally, persons convicted of serious crimes are punished by being sent to prison where, hopefully, they might reflect on their criminal conviction and be rehabilitated to some extent before being returned to society. Sometimes this really works well - as evidenced by a large contracting company which purposely seeks out those being released from prison and offers them employment and training in the construction of major public works. Our biased and partisan media will never tell you about such stories of course, preferring instead to dwell upon how inhumane it is to lock someone up in the first place.
It was not long into the Waikeria riot before the do-gooders such as the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA - an extremist group advocating the overthrow of our government and supported by the Green Party, especially Chloe Swarbrick), plus others, were clamouring for, nay demanding, changes to conditions; for political and bureaucratic heads to roll; for politicians to front up and take control of the situation, ignoring the fact that this was, for once, an operational situation rightly being handled by Corrections, the Police and Fire and Emergency staff.
Then came the political grandstanding (but not from the Ardern-led government from whom not a peep was to be heard, of course-after all, they never front up to “bad” news, do they?).
The National Opposition sent two members to Waikeria, ostensibly to offer to help or negotiate, only to be refused entry and then to be pillioried in the media for grandstanding. This was spectacularly eclipsed by the biggest political stunt of them all with Rawiri Waititi, co-leader of the Maori Party, taking on the negotiator/mediator role, in spite of the fact that Corrections and the Police already had trained negotiators in place. Now the media is crowing about what a great result Waititi was able to secure. Presumably, most of the perpetrators were of Maori descent and could only to be saved by a Maori person - who just happens to be a flamboyant politician in a Stetson hat. Other kaumatua, though invited to intercede, were not apparently called upon. Why?
Let us just pause here and analyse what this signifies. Firstly we are told that about half of all prison inmates are of Maori descent-a figure out of all proportion to their proportion of the population at 16%. Why then are so many of our Maori people locked up? Because of their ethnicity? Or because of 200 years of colonisation, which is the fall-back position claimed for all of the ills of Maoridom? Or, could it possibly be that irrespective of their ethnicity, these people have been convicted of a serious crime which under our current laws, results in imprisonment?
No! Of course not! How utterly juvenile! We are now being harangued by the media with claims that our Justice system is racist and that is why so many people of Maori descent are in prison. The same vociferous activists are also claiming that our health, education, welfare and local authority systems are also racist. These claims are not limited to systems, however, which are described in the new racism typology as “systemic”.
All people of European descent (which ironically includes virtually all Maori people with shared ancestry) are now classified as racist, according to leading Maori activist, John Tamihere (October, 2020).
For the moment, then, the consequence of being convicted of a serious crime is imprisonment. How else could society deal with the Christchurch mosque terrorist? Or murderers, rapists, child sex offenders, psychopaths and violent gang members? Perhaps at some time in the future, society will find an alternative method of punishment to imprisonment. Those advocating the abolition of prisons of course offer no sensible or reasonable alternative punishment for serious crimes.
And the forgotten parties in all of this drama are the victims of serious crime, never acknowledged nor defended by, either the state or the do-gooders, and the hundreds of other prison inmates in this case who did not riot or trash the prison - what about them? Did any of the criminals, do-gooders, media wokes and politicians even consider the victims of these criminals and those other inmates who now have to bear the consequences of the actions of these rioters? Perhaps being sent to other prisons elsewhere in New Zealand, far from family and friends? Not a chance!
And what about the Corrections staff, Police and Fire and Emergency personnel whose duty required them to confront, be abused and threatened by the rioters and have objects hurled at them, for merely doing their job? Oh no, we cannot recognise any of these victims, only the rioters whose “human rights” take precedence. Well, bugger them, is what I say.
There are some alternative solutions.
Some years ago whilst living in the USA, I was intrigued to see groups of men (mainly) in hi-vis overalls, weed-whacking and cutting back scrub along some of the motorways. They were inmates of local prisons employed to keep the roadways tidy. I understood they were also paid a small sum as well as outdoors exercise and doing something of value for the community.
Not in New Zealand! Oh God no! Any suggestion that prison labour might be used on such public works, even rebuilding trashed prisons, is met with howls of protest from the socialist liberals and cultural activists that such “forced” labour contravenes a prisoner’s human rights. How dare anyone even suggest such a possibility?
Hold on a minute! Haven’t we got millions of self-seeded Wilding pines infesting hundreds of thousands of hectares of DOC land? And aren’t we desperate for people to pick fruit and veges at this time of year, necessitating the introduction of thousands of people from the Pacific Islands on temporary visas?
Why could the government not employ the thousands of inmates doing nothing every day, on these and other projects? They could be paid the “ Living Wage” we are so keen to give to everyone, with the proviso that a proportion of their earnings be allocated to the victims of their serious crimes and if their victims are already dead, as in the case of murderers, then those funds go to their victim’s families or to charity. Good idea?
So, that one is unlikely to fly.
Perhaps we could change the laws pertaining to imprisonment and require all offences of a serious nature to be subject to compulsory and much more stringent parole conditions whereby release would only result when a person has undergone at least some rehabilitation; agreed to undertake a significant amount of community work; and takes firm steps to compensate their victims. Whilst current parole conditions do apply in some circumstances, their application and downstream effects appear to be far too liberal, weak and ineffective, if recidivism statistics are anything to go by.
There is a significant and urgent need to research WHY the rate of serious criminal offending is so high amongst younger Maori. To trot out that now well-worn excuse that it is all the fault of 200 years of colonisation by the evil European invader, is total nonsense, an opinion now masquerading as fact.
Didn’t the treaty of Waitangi at least accord the government the right to govern? Pass laws? Protect us all from those who would do us harm? Uh?
Our Maori people have proved themselves more than capable of holding the highest offices of the country: Governors-General; Heads of the Defence Force; the judiciary; political party leadership; academia , sport(especially); music ; the arts; and business. New Zealand in 2021 does NOT deny any person, regardless of their ethnicity, background or political identity, the opportunity to aspire to and to become whatever they might wish to be.
Maori have achieved all of these offices on their own merits. Brilliant! What an absolute tragedy, then, that so many Maori end up in prison for committing serious crimes.
To claim that a person’s ethnicity is the main factor in their being incarcerated for serious criminal offences, is ludicrous, untrue, utterly dishonest and extremely damaging. These vociferous charlatans, who now include a number of highly- honoured citizens of New Zealand, need to do the research instead of parroting that it is all the result of colonisation. Most countries in the world have been colonised at some point in their history-yes, even the colonisers! Most have successfully moved on from that status, but not New Zealand! Oh no!
Finally, until alternatives to imprisonment are developed, we still have the current option- if you “do the crime”, you will “do the time”. QED.
Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.