Justice and Prison

Being Deprived of Your Liberty

6th September 2012

New Zealand’s penal policy continues to come under the spotlight every time a high-risk offender is released back into the

There’s usually a huge and immediate outcry — as the Whanganui witch-hunt shows clearly — and an even bigger outcry if the ex-prisoner re-offends.

Yet there is very little public debate about the conditions under which high-risk offenders are held; and what treatment, if any, they get for
their disorders.

Our correspondent Eva Rawnsley has been taking a close look at a country which pursues a much more enlightened policy, with excellent results for society. Here’s her report…


Why is our justice and prison system in New Zealand still as if we are in the middle ages when in so many other ways our social ideas are humane?

It is a pity that we have modelled our justice ideas on the United States instead of the Scandinavian countries.

In Sweden, Denmark and Finland, being deprived of your liberty when sent to prison is the punishment. Being deprived of your liberty is  seen as the punishment enough, without then adding on making the prisoner’s life as unproductive and wasteful as possible.

Once a prisoner is imprisoned, the whole emphasis is on rehabilitation and releasing a  well functioning human being back into society.  This can’t happen if a person is de-humanised as is the case under the conditions of our prisons.

In the Scandinavian countries the prison cells resemble rooms rather than cells and prisoners are encouraged to learn to live functional lives. They are given support while in prison and continuing support when they are released. Their time in prison is a short as possible and only those that are a real danger to the community  are given long sentences.


Our society tends to be punitive. We don’t think it is enough to deprive a person of their liberty, we pile on extra punishments, treat human being inhumanely and create conditions that almost inevitably lead to recidivism.

Our prison system may please those of us who want to punish, however it is a very expensive system and hurts many innocent people in the process.

Take the economics of it.  Of course keeping people out of prisons as much as possible is the cheapest. Then keeping them there as briefly as possible makes good economic sense. Finally not having them re offend makes even better economic sense.

here is however far more to the economic issue. A man in prison (the majority of prisoners are still male) is quite likely to have children. They are condemned to serve his sentence with him.

They mostly live in poverty and unfortunately  the children of prisoners also frequently end up in the justice system.


Because in reality, the majority of people want revenge over and above a real hope or desire to see brocken people rehabilitated.
Also, with the hypocrosy we now witness in sentencing why would anybody take the justice system seriously ?
The minister of justice acts like a terminator !, if there’s no compassion with our leaders then the chances of NZ social policy ever being more than token words and legeslation.
you all better wake up ! our govt is implementing US legeslation and operational systems in NZ.
Did we all read the news about NZ police getting drones soon ?