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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972

Nz's Open Prison

Nz's Open Prison

New Zealand's most advanced prison, which can in any way be said to be dedicated to reform (I exclude Paremoremo - a monument to the punitive obsession), is prison at Trentham. Witako is an open prison for first offenders, and thus is in an excellent position for experimentation in an attempt to turn it into a reformative institution. Because the prisoners there are first offenders (at least offenders suffering their first prison term), the public may well be able to let its punitive zeal lapse, and risk the possibility of escapes, and even of the prisoners finding life not unpleasant, if reformation is a real possibility. The regime at Witako is directed strongly to wards rehabilitation, but it can still not escape the criticisms which Osbourne made. On the positive side there is a good education programme, under which it is possible for inmates to obtain both academic and trade qualifications to ease their way on the outside. There is a good education programme, under which it is possible a psychiatric service available freely, though intermittently. The work provided is not uniformly monotonous or degrading. Living conditions are comfortable and not badly restricted, and there are good facilities for recreation. There is a scheme, unfortunately restricted to "Christian" families, of weekend release into a home environment. There is unrestricted letter writing, and reasonable visiting provisions. "Temptation" is put in the prisoners way by the fact that escape is as easly as walking out the back door, and there is a "Release to work scheme, under which prisoners can take a job in a factory in the outside community during the last few weeks of their imprisonment. That would seem to be a pretty positive check-list, yet still Witako remains a Prison, if a good one. For the fact that prisoners are still subject to the 'edicts of an autocrat' (even if a paternalistic one), and are still treated as a group of men undergoing punishment, means that they are still regardless of the positive reforms, isolated in a situation totally unlike that in the real world. When they leave prison, and are once more faced with the responsibilities of caring for a family, of deciding whether they will stay in the job they have worked in under the pre-release scheme, even of avoiding the temptations of return to crime. They of avoiding the temptations of a return to crime. They are once again faced with the situation which they faced before they committed the crime which took them to jail, and they are really no more fitted to cope with it.

Jail cartoon 5

Until I Got in Trouble and Went to Jail...

Jail cartoon 6

And Learned that Jail is Even More of a Jail Than School. A Job, Marriage, or the Army.