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September 25, 2017 | by  | in Politics |
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The Party Line

According to the Department of Corrections, the prison population was 10,260 in June — of which 50.4% are Māori, 32.0% are Pākehā, 11.1% are Pasifika, 4.7% are “Other (incl. Asian)”, and 1.8% are unknown. The Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill passed in 2010 — prisoners sentenced after December 16, 2010, are unable to vote and have been removed from the electoral roll. Prisoners incarcerated but on remand, and those sentenced before 2010 (unless serving a sentence of life imprisonment, preventive detention, or imprisonment of three years or more), are able to vote. In a conversation with Salient the director of JustSpeak, Dr Katie Bruce, described prisoner disenfranchisement in New Zealand as “racialised” due to the high percentage of Māori and Pasifika in prison. The general election was just held on September 23 — should prisoners have been able to vote?

 

Greens at Vic

Yes. Voting is a right, not a privilege.  

Prisoner disenfranchisement is an attack on those in society who are already marginalised. We cannot expect positive outcomes from a corrections system guided by punishment and fear. By taking away the right of prisoners to vote we are further excluding them from society and further entrenching New Zealand’s racial divide.

Addressing real drivers of crime, such as substance addiction, mental health issues, and socio-economic disadvantage, would be far more effective in deterring crime than encroaching on human rights. If New Zealand is to be an inclusive and just society, our corrections system must instead be guided by principles of rehabilitation and reintegration.

— Kayden Briskie

 

Young Nats

The Young Nats stand by the government’s policy on this issue. The National Government has made it a matter of importance to invest in prisoner rehabilitation and schemes to keep high risk individuals away from jail, primarily driven by the social investment approach. These schemes see funds invested in local communities and organisations that have proven track records in supporting those around them. This approach has been a cornerstone in the National Government’s approach to tackling social issues, and revolves around the theme that a community knows how best to support itself, as opposed to bureaucrats in Wellington.

— Sam Stead

 

Vic Labour

New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act 1990 states that every citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18 is eligible to enrol and participate in our democratic system. This includes prisoners. Everyone deserves to have their human rights respected and upheld.

We need to acknowledge who is in our prisons. New Zealand has hit its highest incarceration rate, at 10,000. New Zealand’s prison system is an incredibly discriminatory institution:

  • Over 50% of the penal population is Māori, whilst only making up 14% of the general population.
  • 91% of inmates have suffered from mental illness or substance abuse during their lifetime.
  • 53% of women in prison suffer from PTSD from victimisation.

Punitive deterrence does not work, due to the main driver of criminality being social deprivation.

Prisoners should have a right to choose, through the ability to vote, between justice policies which prioritise rehabilitation and reintegration or harsh punishments which do not address the reasons for crime.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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