Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 16, July 12, 1976.
Skeletons in the Closet
Skeletons in the Closet
Today we exist in a capacious Scientific Technological era. Man has set foot on Terra's satilate, Luna, and is preparing for manned flights' to Mars and a hopeful manned landing by 1986. The Homo Sapien has made tremendous advances in all branches of science; yet, at the bottom of the list, one of the most important, is the criminal problem and the medieval Penal Institutions. This is the cancer that needs to be cured.
As society advances into the 21st Century A.D., more careful thought must be given to the criminal and criminal institutions. The emphasis must be on Rehabilitation, not punishment. Though mention has been made in Parliament and in Law Amendment Bills to find a solution to imprisonment. The action must be now.
The criminal, may it be man or woman has a human and constitutional right to live without fear or ridicule in society after or before conviction or imprisonment no matter the nature of the crime.
When Social Security was first introduced into New Zealand in the late 1800's, stipulations were made under the Old Age Pension Act of 1898; excluded from this were: Criminals, Drunkards and Wife-beaters. The latter reflects societies attitude towards criminals; exclude them from society, lock them up in prison. So exists societies Victorian thoughts and dispositions.
No Freedom of Movement
For the criminal, freedom of movement is frowned upon by the Justice Department. They like the criminal to stay in one place where an eye can be kep upon them If a person on probation moves from one city to another he can be taken to court for "Breach Of Probation" which results either in a maximum fine Of $400 or 3 months imprisonment. Yet, the person on probation, has by law, the right to move as long as he/she reports to the nearest probation office within 24 hours of arrival.
To interfere with a persons right to move is interfering with a human instinct - immigration or migration.
The law should exist for the invidual - not the state, and this is were facism is taking over from democracy in this country. New Zealand is fast becoming a Police controlled state, approved by National and Labour parliamentarians.
A law exists under the Child Welfare Act where a policeman who has reason to believe that a child is being ill-treated, search any premises without a search warrant and can force entry if need be. The police have far too much power now.
Take these young eighteen and nineteen year old cops: what do they know about society? humanity? marital relationships and so on. I say that all policemen/women should be trained fully in pyschoanalysis, humanities, marital relations, Christianity and they should all be married at least for three years before joining the force.
They should be on 'probation' learning about life, not how to arrest defenceless old drunks, whom will be fined $10 - $15. Society gave him the booze and then learns it cannot control its own decadence.
What is needed is men who can correct our failing society. Men who have the guts to face critical groups; Men who can say: "This is the Atomic Era. We don't need that 200 year old building Captain Cook spat in. Pull it down: Up with a new one. Buildings like that belong in a museum, not in the middle of a city - or suburb."
But no, we have a lot of fat-arsed old men, cowards, afraid of losing their prestige at the local darts' club or at the next elections. They are thinking of themselves, not of their country and so society keeps on falling more so into retrogression.
Prisons Are Hell
Criminals are not demons; But Prisons are hell and that money sent overseas could be well used here for criminal rehabilitation and less crowded prisons. The criminal is societys' problem whether society likes it or not Therefore they must be prepared to help and understand the criminal. They are not robots, they feel, love, remorse, hatred and all other emotions. They have wifes and children. Are their children to suffer also because society isn't prepared to help them. Their children suffer in lonliness while "Dad's" in prison, and the mother telling the children lies so not to hurt them! The children running 'wild' on 'Mum' because dads not their to correct them - in the end - the inevitable - the breakup of a once happy marriage - brought about by societies decadence.
"Punishment to fit the crime" is out of date. "Society must be protect" is obsolete. Yes, prisons are still used to punish, rather than to cure.
What is needed is a panel or skilled professionals in fields such as: Medicine, Psychiatrists, Criminologists, Penologists, Brain specialists, Social Workers, Education staff and Labour Department officials, who would be dedicated to the full cure and rehabilitation of a criminal. Probation officers excluded, for they are too biased.
A skilled panel like this could examine a prisoner on remand and make sound recommendations before sentence. There would be time to seel all staff in the 14 to 21 days the prisoner is on remand. The board could also sit at various prisons and borstals throughout the country once very three months or six months for a week or a fortnight interviewing and examining sentenced prisoners. The criminal has a right to be protected from his own, sometimes involuntary, actions
A "Golden Kiwi" grant to a panel like this would do far more good than it does when presented to some obscure culture organisation, which does not earn this country any money, while the criminal, who is kept at $3 per head annually, could be out earning his living. With 4,000 odd prisoners in New Zealander prisons and with Warden's wages the cost annually amounts to over $1 million dollars.
All criminals have a psychological problem, some deeper than others. The majority of these are never given the chance to speak of this, or have it found out why they offend. Because there is no help, they can't help but re-offend. So with NZ superb psychriatric services, why are they not used to their best possible advantages. If it is lack of skilled personnel then attract them from overseas; even if political asylum must be given to persons from communist or Asian countries.
There are many problems an offender will not speak of because they are either deviant, being 'big', plian scared to be called 'mad' or 'unsettled' or trying to keep to the prisoners' so-called 'code'.
I can't crawl to screws (cops, prison officers, etc), anyone who does is a 'Nark", "topper" or has "Hands on his stomach" or "Brown Ankles" or is "Pushing a third" remission.
Offender in Court
The offender often lands in prison, usually after being represented by an uninterested legal aid lawyer, and a scanty if any, psychiatirc report, and the all-damaging probation report. The latter is caused by the Probation Officer incompetence and utter disregard to the truth, or to be able to interpret a situation clearly. This causes the offender to feel resentment and though telling the truth the P O twists to the way He Thinks it is, or was; therefore placing a bad misinterpretation before a judge or magistrate.
When prisoners are released they often have no employment no place to live and inadequate money from prison earnings. This is not rehabilitation and often leads to further crime being perpetuated.
For men serving sentences I put forward these suggestions: All persons serving 12 months or more be made by law to learn a trade of thier chosing (within reason).
All prisoners to be paid union rates, with board, tax taken off. If a prisoner commits an offence in prison, fine him. The money he earns to be banked for his release
Pre release and home leave to be made compulsory (except for murderers until having done 7 years).
Prisoners to have choice of treaining in civil defence, fire-brigade or St. John Ambulance. These three could hold courses at prisons and prisoners to be given field work experience. (Make them to feel wanted)
Special squads trained in rescue work, working with the police, instead of against them. The prison rescue squads would be at the scene of an accident or looking for lost bush-parties in half the time other rescue squads take - because the squad is congregated in one central place.
Get the prisoners interested in community interests by integrating them, aiding them, giving them sound advice and good community training. Society will then, arise from its own decadence.
With efforts like these criminals will begin to feel wanted and have gained a track and a interest in either civil defence, St Johns and the Fire Brigade.
The writer of this has been a civil defence warden and in 1972 applied to become a scout master knowing their was a shortage and having an interest in scouting. I was turned down because of criminal convictions, making me feel bitter. I only had the kids interest at heart, having 3 of my own, 8 years, 5 years and 3½ years old. I don't teach my children anything about crime - actually the exact opposite. So why should I teach young scouts about crime. I'd teach them the repercussions of any criminal act for I don't like seeing kids in trouble I thought I'd point this out just to show societies attitude to a criminal. This is why the criminal needs to be accepted in community projects and organisations.
R.J de Vere