“Our [prison] system simply fails to rehabilitate or deter, and our high recidivism rate is a clear indication of that failure. One reason for that failure is that imprisonment does not confront the inmate with his or her crime. For many inmates imprisonment represents no more than a period of monotonous and rigid routine which is coped with by living each day as it comes. Even though imprisonment is for some an unpleasant experience, few prisoners make clear or realistic connections in their own minds between their crime, its consequences and their incarceration. More often than not they emerge from prison older, harder and more bitter individuals, having rarely considered the suffering they have inflicted on their victims and their own families. Change is needed to ensure that inmates are confronted by the reality of their crime and its consequences for, unfortunately, the present penal system unwittingly ensures that responsibility does not have to be faced.”
This is a quote from the Roper Report into prisons called: “Te Ara Hou: The New Way” which was
written more than two decades ago. It was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results and yet that is precisely what we have done for two decades.
Now I can hear many of you thinking that I was part of a government that had nearly half of that time to address the very issue that the quote raises. But I am going to provide a context for Labour’s ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ mantra as we headed into the 1999 general election – and that context is the 1999 citizens initiated referendum. The tragic images of Norm Withers’ mother after the cowardly and brutal attack she suffered had more than 300,000 people ready to sign the petition and even more to support the referendum that emerged. The referendum was worded:
Click to read the rest of the keynote "What Will Turn the Tide."