Prison reform on the path to prison abolition

corrections[Activist Olive McRae submitted this article to Socialist Review, and we were happy to print it in our latest issue. Nationals announcement last week of more plans for working prisons gives the article an added relevance and urgency. You can subscribe to Socialist Review here.]

“Those of us that identify as prison abolitionists as opposed to prison reformers, make the point that often reforms create situations where mass incarceration becomes even more entrenched and so therefore we have to think about what in the long run will produce decarceration, fewer people behind bars, and hopefully eventually in the future the possibility of imagining a landscape without prisons, where other means are used to address issues of harm. Where social problems such as illiteracy and poverty do not lead vast numbers of people along a trajectory that leads to prison.

In 1971  when the Attica rebellion took place, it was a really important moment in the history of mass incarceration, the history of the prison in this country. The prisoners who were the spokespeople for the uprising indicated that they were struggling for a world without prison. During the 1970s the notion of prison abolition became very important, in fact public intellectuals, judges, journalists, took it very seriously and began to think about alternatives.

However in the 1980s, with the dismantling of social services, structural adjustments and the rise of global capitalism, we began to see prison emerging as a major institution to address the problems that were produced by industrialization, lack of jobs, less funding in education, lack of education, the closure of systems designed to assist people who had mental and emotional problems, and now of course the prison system is also a psychiatric facility.

The question is, how does one address the needs of prisoners by instituting reforms that are not going to create a stronger prison system.” - Angela Davis (Val’s Show, 2014).

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The Easy Rider Tragedy and Capitalist Justice

ImageHarry Johnson, a Socialist Review reader, writes on the very different outcomes of the Easy Rider tragedy and the Pike River disaster in the courts.

The Easy Rider sank in the Foveaux Strait in 2012 after being hit by a rogue wave. One child and seven men, including the skipper, Rewai Karetai, drowned.

Faced with this tragedy, the government decided it needed to prosecute the partner of the skipper, Gloria Davis, in order to send a message to fishing vessel operators of the risks of ignoring government regulations.

Whether or not the message has been heard by the intended audience, it is not the only message to come out of the tragedy, especially when the event is considered in conjunction with the Pike River disaster.

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Family Court Reforms

The war on the poor has extended its reach to the Family Court. In the guise of protecting the vulnerable and improving the experience of those needing assistance to resolve family disputes the Government has reformed the Family Court fundamentally.

 

FamilyCourt

Although the Minister of Justice consulted with an expert advisory group what became clear when the minister’s report and recommendations to Cabinet were released was that that the real purpose of the reforms is to reduce the cost to the state of providing such assistance.

 

From March 2014 when the reforms come into effect, parents who go to Court for assistance in resolving disputes about the care of their children will not be entitled or able to have legal representation in Court prior to the matter going to a Hearing. There are a number of pieces of legislation and Court rules and regulations over which the Family Court has jurisdiction the main one being the Care of Children Act 2004.It is unrealistic and unfair to expect those in crisis to understand and interpret its provisions.

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Free Teina Pora now!

freeteina-BANNER1When Pora was 17, in 1994, he was arrested by police in Otara and held in custody and questioned for over four days without a lawyer. The police got him to confess to a brutal rape and murder. He was charged and convicted despite the fact that he could not identify what the victim looked like or where and what her house looked like. During the trial prosecution witnesses were paid up to $5000 each by police to testify.

The real killer is believed to be Malcolm Rewa, who was jailed for other offences in 1998. But Pora has remained behind bars for 21 years. It is a clear case of the Police making someone take the fall, and railroading them into jail. [Read more...]

The Criminal Injustice System: from Aotearoa to the USA

the-new-jim-crowMichelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow (2011) has caused a huge storm of discussion, debate and controversy in the United States. It may well be a book that sparks a new social movement. Alexander documents the rise of mass incarceration in the USA, and link this to entrenched racism, poverty and injustice. The privatising and ‘outsourcing’ of prison as business, and the ‘law and order’ turn are part of neoliberal politics the world over.

This has obvious relevance in Aotearoa. The prison system disproportionately affects Maori and Pasifika people. The powers of the state – to harass, humiliate, detain and lock-up – are felt every day in brown people’s lives. The history of white settler colonial rule has relied on locking up and disenfranchising Maori people. A new phase in capitalism, and the symptoms of poverty in recession, looks to imprisonment again. [Read more...]

Maori teacher brutalised by police

579842_623457754349105_464419270_nWe are sharing this story of police brutality from tangatawhenua.com . Without their pioneering work sharing this it would not have got the further media attention that has come in recent days. 

TangataWhenua.com was asked to share this story as few other mainstream media outlets felt it was “newsworthy” enough. What follows is provided verbatium, nothing has been edited or changed. Remember whanau if at all possible WHENEVER dealing with police, if you have the ability to video the encounter always do, this serves as powerful evidence in the case of a police complaint.

Corina Tairua’s Statement

  • Time and date of incident: Approx 3am 17/3/13
  • Arresting Officer: D Ward
  • QID Number: TWZ644

My name is Corina Tairua. I am a mother of 7 children. Ages, 17, 16, 15, 13, 12 and 18 months. I am four papers off graduating to receive my teaching degree as a primary school teacher. I have never been in trouble with the police or law in my life. As I write this I am deeply traumatised by what has happened to me at the hands of the people I had always believed in and had great respect for, our police, our New Zealand police. [Read more...]

Free Taame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara!

Free Taame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara!

Taame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara have been sentenced to 2 and a-half years jail for possession of unlicensed firearms and Molotov cocktails. Urs Signer and Emily Bailey’s adjurned sentencing – and the suggestion of home detention – suggests further injustice to come.

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TV Review: Songs from the Inside

Songs from the Inside is a brilliant documentary series currently on Maori TV about four musicians coaching inmates at Arohata and Rimutaka to write their own songs.

The documentary is a welcome antidote to “reality TV”. Both the producer Maramena Roderick and director Julian Arahanga are very aware that they do not want to create a prison version of Idol.

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Justice for the Urewera Four!

The most expensive case in New Zealand history, and for what? Millions of dollars have been spent on a vindictive and farcical prosecution, at the cost of untold stress, emotional harm and upset for the people of Tuhoe. In February we called the treatment of the Urewera Four an “anti-democratic outrage”, and stand by that today. The police case continued for reasons of malice and political mischief – there were gains to be made in creating a ‘terror’ threat. Tuhoe, yet again, have borne the burden for that.

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Drop the charges, and free the Urewera Four!

The International Socialist Organisation offers its solidarity to Tame Iti, Emily Bailey, Te Rangikaiwhira Kemara and Urs Signer. We support Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe, and offer our solidarity to all the people of Tuhoe. This is just the latest in a series of raids, attacks and confiscations carried out by the state in Tuhoe land.

[Read more...]

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