Monday, May 09, 2005

Existing processes II

The Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Bill requires that prisoners must have made "reasonable use" of existing processes for complaint before being eligible for any compensation. So how effective are those existing processes? According to the Ministry of Justice's recent Review of Prisoner Complaints Processes, not very.

The primary problem is at the frontline. Prisoners are supposed to initially direct complaints to local prison authorities. And they do - internal complaints systems receive over 6000 contacts a year. But only about 3% of these are recorded as formal complaints. While this could be due to issues being resolved informally, it is far more likely the prisoners receive an unsympathetic hearing from the friends and colleagues of those they are complaining against - a view supported by large number of minor complaints inundating the Prison Inspectorate and Ombudsmen. Prisoners circumvent the system because it won't give them justice - yet under the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Bill, this very fact becomes a reason for denying it. Clearly, Corrections needs to improve its system if it is to be anything more than a perverse Catch-22.

However, there's also a larger problem, and one that would be of concern even if the government was not passing this bill - and that is Corrections' relationship with the Ombudsmen. The Ombudsmen investigate complaints with an eye to correcting systemic and policy failures. But while they are quite good at this, they seem to have problems getting the Department to actually act on their recommendations. The review lists several examples of Corrections' inaction and foot-dragging - notably on the priority accorded to investigating allegations of assault by prison staff, on removing differentials in inmate wages based on security classification, and on the installation of CCTV cameras to monitor staff treatment of inmates. It is crystal clear from these issues and the case studies of the 1998 Paremoremo "disturbance" and "goon squad" incidents that the Department of Corrections has a "bunker mentality", and is actively hostile to any criticism of its policies or the behaviour of its staff - even when those staff grossly and wantonly violate departmental procedure (if not the law). This needs to change, regardless of what the government does about prisoner compensation - otherwise, we're simply inviting further abuse.


Who the ***K cares about a bunch of prisoners Stale bread and water diet Crushing rocks 12 hours a day and sleep on the concrete floor.Make it so they never want to come back Power to the victims of crime

Posted by Anonymous : 5/10/2005 02:54:00 PM

I can see a potential problem with that attitude though.
It costs money to be mean and vengeful - particularly if the prisoners dont reform and you have to keep them in your jails for life. (and if your jails are so bad they spend all their time trying to escape).

Posted by Genius : 5/10/2005 06:38:00 PM