Tuesday, July 13, 2010

National's plan for growth: Build more prisons!

Or at least that seems to be the subtext of Corrections Minister Judith Collins' proud announcement that a new prison will bring $1.2 billion over 30 years to South Auckland. New prisons are the last thing a sane society wants to build - they are in every sense of the word a waste of money, a pure drag on the economy. At best, they should be regarded as a necessary evil. But pretending that that waste somehow contributes to our society and economy is simply madness. And tarting it up to make it sound impressive (the timespan is carefully chosen to give a figure over a billion; the actual "benefit" is ~$40 million a year) suggests again that spin is being put before sanity.

Its also worth remembering that every cent of that $1.2 billion over 30 years "benefit" is taxpayer's money. Its what the government is paying to build and run the place. For every other part of the public service, including schools and hospitals, that would be something the current government disapproved of. You don't see them talking about how a new hospital will bring millions to the local community; instead its "greedy doctors" and public sector "waste". But with prisons, they pretend its real economic activity - a complete reversal of National's value system. But I guess when the only answer they have to crime is to lock more people up for longer, then they have to find a "bright side" somewhere.

There is no "bright side" in building prisons. They are a symbol of failure, not success. But unfortunately, the government's "policy" in this area consists of locking more people up for longer, the same old policy that has failed in the past. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the classic popular definition of madness. But that's exactly what our government is doing with corrections policy. And its long past time we sent in the men in white coats.