Friday, December 09, 2005

Time for accountability on the BMR

Last year, the High court ruled that the Department of Corrections' Behaviour Management Regime was an illegal and inhumane system of imprisonment which violated the Bill of Rights Act, and ordered that damages be paid to five prisoners who had been subjected to it. This caused predictable outrage from the "hang 'em high" brigade, and the government swiftly moved to enact the Prisoners and Victims' Claims Act 2005 - a piece of legislation which itself grossly violates the rights of prisoners - in an effort to limit their exposure to further claims and (by implication) continue to allow the Department of Corrections to violate the law with impunity. Meanwhile, Corrections filed an appeal in the hope of having the decision overturned, or at least reducing the damages awarded against them.

The Court of Appeal has now ruled [PDF] in the case, and the result is not good for Corrections. Not only has their appeal been dismissed on all counts - the court has increased the damages awarded and found further that their treatment of one prisoner was so vile as to constitute "disproportionately severe" punishment.

The Herald is screaming about the prospect of prisoners gaining $4.5 million in further claims, but sadly, the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Act is likely to prevent that (it did not limit damages in this case because the decisions was under appeal at the time). Meanwhile, I think we should be turning the blowtorch in the other direction: against the people in the Department of Corrections who established an illegal and inhumane system of imprisonment which allowed these human rights abuses to occur. Requests under the Official Information Act have shown that Corrections staff did not even consider the legality of their scheme (making them at the least grossly negligent), and that none of them has been disciplined in any way for their mismanagement and human rights violations. That is not good enough. Now that the appeal has been resolved, it is time for some accountability. Heads should roll, starting with the people in Corrections who designed this scheme.


the basic fact is if you treat someone like an animal they will behave like an animal. Prison should be more about rehabilitation.
The concept of restorative justice has alot to offer our society.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/10/2005 01:53:00 AM