Wednesday, September 30, 2020

And still paying for it

In 1998, in the wake of the Paremoremo Prison riot, the Department of Corrections established the "Behaviour Management Regime". Prisoners were locked in their cells for 22 or 23 hours a day, with no fresh air, no exercise, no social contact, no entertainment, and in some cases no clothes and no toilet paper. Over 200 people were treated like this, all for a minimum of 2 weeks, and some for years. The BMR was eventually ruled to violate the right to be treated with humanity and dignity, and in some cases to constitute cruel, degrading, or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment, in violation of both the Bill of Rights Act and the Convention Against Torture, and the Supreme Court ruled that damages should be paid to its victims.

That was in 2007. And now, 13 years on, we're still paying for it, with over $820,000 offered in settlements (and probably many times that in legal fees). What's appalling is that it has taken this long - Corrections apparently refused to even consider settling until last year. And meanwhile, none of the Corrections managers who oversaw the BMR have faced any employment consequences, despite their clear malfeasance and its huge public cost. There has not even been an inquiry. Its as if Corrections thinks it should be allowed to torture prisoners, ignore the courts, and face no accountability for it whatsoever. And we really need to ask why successive Ministers have let them get away with it.