Friday, May 25, 2012

Invasive politics

Currently, the government is trying to push through a Corrections Amendment Bill, which among other things removes restrictions on the use of strip searches in prisons while making them more invasive and humiliating. But yesterday, the Corrections Association came out against the bill, calling it unnecessary:

Corrections Association of New Zealand president Beven Hanlon said the current strip search procedure was highly successful and he did not believe corrections officers needed greater powers.

"I'm not aware of any statistics that say we've got a problem with prisoners concealing things inside them that we're not able to find during a strip search process."

The Corrections Association are not people you expect to care about the rights or dignity of prisoners. So when they say a law is unnecessary, it almost certainly is. Meanwhile, both the Ombudsman's Office and Human Rights Commission have criticised the bill for violating our international obligations on the treatment of prisoners and inviting torture and abuse.

So why is the government pushing this? As with most of their law and order legislation, the primary motivation seems to be to get "tough on crime" headlines, regardless of whether the measure is necessary, proportionate, or effective. Its a purely political measure, nothing more.

While prisoners are in jail for breaking the law, they deserve better than to be treated as a punching bag by a bullying government desperate to appeal to the vicious old sadists of the "hang 'em high" brigade.