Saturday, December 18, 2004

No accountability

That's the key finding the State Services Commission's "goon squad" enquiry: that the Corrections Department failed to lay down clear lines of accountability for its Canterbury Emergency Response Unit (CERU). The results were entirely predictable: the CERU developed an "inappropriate militaristic culture", assaulted and abused inmates, and generally behaved like a gang of thugs rather than the professional staff of a penal institution.

Corrections claims that people have been held accountable; senior management were disciplined and lost their bonuses. But they kept their jobs, as did the members of the goon squad itself (some of whom, it should be noted, won significant compensation after a botched attempt to fire them; apparently Corrections had failed to make it clear that assaulting inmates was serious misconduct justifying instant dismissal). But by far the most telling sign of a total lack of accountability is the fact that not a single member of the goon squad has been prosecuted, despite the group being responsible for several serious assaults and at least one death.

Given this lack of accountability, Ron Mark is right in calling for heads to roll at Corrections. But we must go further than that: the police must investigate the criminal behaviour of the "goon squad" and lay charges if possible. Otherwise, our justice system will be nothing more than a joke.