Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The consequences of double-bunking

When the government first floated plans to use double bunking to overcrowd prisons, criminologists warned that it would lead to rapes, bullying and violence. And now we can add suicide to that list:

A prisoner, who had been raped by another inmate, killed himself after learning his attacker was being brought back to the same prison, prison sources say.

The Corrections Department says an independent review into Michael Graham Maxwell's death means it cannot comment.


Maxwell's funeral was held on Tuesday in Hoon Hay.

He died in Christchurch Hospital on Friday after being found in his Christchurch Men's Prison cell on October 10.

Maxwell was repeatedly raped in Christchurch Men's Prison in 2005, after being placed in the same cell as Noble, a violent gang member.

A prison source said Maxwell, 24, committed suicide after other inmates taunted him that Noble was being brought back to the prison.

There's more in today's papers about how Maxwell had sought help - including ACC counselling - for psychological issues caused by his rape, and how he had pleaded with the Prime Minister to be allowed into a proper rehabilitation programme. Those pleas were ignored. As a result, a man is dead.

No doubt the Sensible Sentencing Trust will soon issue a press release saying "good riddance", but there are two points we should remember. Firstly, the protection of the law extends to everyone, even to convicted criminals; that is what differentiates the state from a gang. There has been a clear failure in their duty of car eon the part of Corrections which has led directly to a man's death, and they need to be held accountable for it. Secondly, despite the Sensible Sentencing Trust's urgent fantasies, we do not have the death penalty in New Zealand. At least, not in law. But double bunking will give us one de facto. And that is simply unacceptable in a civilised society.