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Lefter 19 ~ Going to Prison

September 23, 2009 by emweb

In New Zealand, currently, there is some disquiet about our exceedingly high ranking of numbers imprisoned. We rank well above many other Western-style democracies. New Zealand seems to be throwing people into prisons at an unprecedented rate.

The prison population was too high under Labour (a slightly left party that has been in power for three terms until ousted last year by the more right wing National Party). However, it’s now higher still, and National’s response has been to build prisons from shipping containers and to make more prisoners share rooms.

This is so typical of the difference in right versus left philosophies, I just have to comment.

The left (again, and understandably, generalising) tends to look at why people commit crimes, and tries to target resources accordingly. Not that this was super-effective under nine years of labour. But the left generally believes that people are good, although guidance can be called for.

But the right, generally, thinks people are bad. The right therefore prefers to capture and punish offenders, rather than try and figure out why they are offending. You can tell somebody is right wing as soon as they start spouting off about locking people up, and getting certain people off the streets, and about ‘punishment’.

The difference is illuminating. Philosophically, the left is saying ‘as people, how can we assist other people to be/do better?’ while the right is saying ‘criminals are other. As so  they are beyond redemption; they should be segregated from normal society.’

The left’s efforts get characterised as those of a ‘nanny state’. Anyone against the left eagerly seizes on such catchphrases and they get repeated so much, any real meaning soon becomes lost.

But what do the right’s efforts get characterised as? Perhaps the left just isn’t as good at one-liner denigrations.

(Perhaps it should be.)

But that’s beside the point. New Zealand has a high prison population because we have large disenfranchised minorities, and because the gap between rich and poor has been growing quickly over the last two decades.

Just as wealthy people seem to be much more preoccupied with securing themselves and their property, they also seem to be much less willing to look at the possible causes of high offending rates. Partly because they are, themselves, partly responsible.

I’m not defending criminal activity, by the way. I find violent crime utterly abhorrent. Physical violence immediately denies a victim their human rights. It’s prehistoric.

But yes, it’s very effective. When you have nothing, or you have a drug habit, or when you’re bored out of your mind, it’s a relatively obvious and immediate option.

So expect National to keep throwing people into every more crowded jails as they protect the farmers, the landed gentry and the business-owning classes from the other, while promising ‘better’ (as in lower) conditions that can be forced upon workers because of high unemployment.

Does it make you feel proud?


2 Comments »

  1. Zeddman says:

    It doesn’t really matter which side of politics you look from, it seems that prisons are an industry in Aotearoa. The more they lock up, the more they appear to be suceeding in their aim (not wishing to sound TOO cynical).. the main reason why the prisons are over-flowing, is: Drug Prohibition. Its a failure, but a good ‘reason’ to lock people up !

    Z

  2. John says:

    I tend to agree with the right wing philosophy…put people in jail but I believe there should also be a program, specially, a livelihood program after prison so that the ex-prisoners can move on and not fall back into their old niche…

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