Turning a blind eye to torment

I can’t remember when I wrote the following paragraph about using containers in prisons to mop up overcrowding:

“My response to the use of containers to imprison convicted criminals was to ask myself the following questions: Are the containers secure? Will they mop up overcrowding? By prison standards of accommodation, are these containers humane? The answer is yes in all cases.”

What I was really concerned about was contained in the following paragraph:

“I am more concerned with the policy of ‘doubling up.’ Enforced sharing of cells exposes  weak prisoners to bullying and abusive cell-mates behind locked doors. I can see a time coming when this practice is exposed for the same see-no-evil cruelty that Catholic Church institutions were guilty of. Who will then be held to account?”

As predicted by anyone who had the slightest knowledge of prisons, the rapes have   come to pass. But not the accountability and nor will it. By the time complaints of prison rapes are multiplied tenfold those who should be accountable will have gone. Yet the irresponsible practice of ‘doubling up’ was a political act which cannot be denied. The minister now charged with handling the flack from this policy will order a lengthy review (while more prisoners are being raped) culminating in the usual blah that it will never happen again.

With a shrug of the shoulders the overcrowding excuse will be trotted out. But when you examine this justification it amounts to permission to rape. There is an alternative. While prison authorities cannot guarantee to keep prisoners safe at all times, not without   twenty-four hour solitary confinement, they should at least guarantee a safe cell. And if they cannot, the offender should not be admitted. If in the interim that means releasing prisoners to make room, so be it.

The current practice is beyond incompetence, beyond callous. It is savagely inhuman.

Share this:
Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.