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Speech - Harawira: Sentencing And Parole Reform Bill: Third Reading

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Hone Harawira
Hone Harawira

Today is the anniversary of the arrests at Bastion Point - 25 May 1978. Back then 222 of us were hauled off to the clink and charged with trespass.

Today though, things are different. As we see from the police paranoia in the terrorist raids on Tuhoe a couple of years ago, even simple charges like trespass take on a greater seriousness as the state targets those it wants to shut down, using charges which allow them to call out the armed offenders squad and using the media to beat up stories that the court is showing have no substance whatsoever in the harsh light of day.

So when we talk today about the list of 42 charges which will make up the 3-strikes criteria in this third and final reading of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, believe me, that's only today's list; it won't be long before trespass and other similar charges will added to the list by politicians too dumb, too lazy, and too mean-spirited to resolve issues intelligently, and who choose the big stick as the resort of first-choice, and to no-ones surprise, it will be Maori who suffer most when that happens.

Mr Speaker, prison statistics tell us that even though Maori are only 14% of the population we are 50% of the prison muster, and have been so for more than 20 years, but if you think that's bad, believe me, this 3 strikes bill is going to make it much, much worse because without decent rehabilitation programs, first strikers and second strikers will carry on getting it wrong because they're not learning anything, they're simply reacting to problems in the only way they know, and they're gonna get hammered.

And because I suspect a lot of people in this house don't believe me, I recommend that they read the countless reports which vividly detail the historical tragedy of systemic bias and outright bloody racism against Maori in respect of arrests, charges, convictions and jail sentences - reports which tell us that given equal numbers of Pakeha and Maori being arrested for similar incidents, the ones who are more likely to get charged are the Maori ones, reports which tell us that given equal numbers of Pakeha and Maori going to court on similar charges, the ones who are more likely to get convicted are the Maori ones, reports which tell us that given equal numbers of Pakeha and Maori being convicted on similar charges, the ones who are more likely to get sentenced to jail are the Maori ones. and reports which tell us that given equal numbers of Pakeha and Maori getting sent to jail on similar charges, the ones who are more likely to get the longer sentences are the Maori ones.

And for those who doubt this scenario I urge them to give me a ring, and I'd be happy to organise a seminar with a Pakeha lecturer to confirm what I am saying today. So Mr Speaker, when I tell you that Maori are the ones who will cop the dirty end of this 3-strikes bill, you can believe it.

Mr Speaker - it's a short-sighted man who thinks that legislation sending people to jail for a long time reduces crime rates; it's a blind man who sees justice in sentencing people to life for responding to circumstances they have little control over; and it's a bloody fool who thinks that this bill will do anything else but create frustration, anger and violence within our prison population, an anger that will explode at any reason and at any time, because when you're in jail for life, the only question you consider when faced with conflict is not "what can happen to me if I do this" no it's "what else can they do to me?"

And when politicians talk about a safe society, let me ask this question - what about the next generation who have to grow up with the children of those who have been jailed for life, children who grow up with a deep-seated and very real hatred of society for a life below the margins that they have been forced to lead, a hatred that will be visited back upon society through ever-increasing rates of mayhem and murder.

And that of course, will add weight to the calls for more guns for police, and that will lead to more guns for civilians, and that will lead to bigger guns for criminals until the only question we will have left to ask ourselves will be "when did we become the southern-most state of the gun-loving USA?" because that's the future we give ourselves with this bill.

That is the only future of a society that treats the punishment of its members with the contempt being contemplated by this legislation, that refuses to take the steps of intelligent societies to reduce offending by reducing the causes of that offending rather than jailing offenders for life.

Heck, even our own Ombudsman admits that "there are smarter ways than prison to prevent crime and make criminals accountable and that prison is not the most effective or efficient approach to reducing crime." And yet what are we doing?

We're building more prisons, we're double-bunking them, we're making plans to keep people in them for life, and we're dumb enough to think that we can tell how well we're dealing with crime by counting how many people we've put into prison!!

Mr Speaker, Corrections got $500,000 in 2000, nearly a million in 2008, and it's predicted that we will spend 2 billion by 2020, and that's without the 3-strikes bill being factored in, so you gotta ask the question - is that what this government thinks our society should be spending its money on?

Yes, we've got a problem with violent crime in this country, and yes, we've got to do something about it, but let's at least be intelligent about it and look to other international examples where rehabilitation and reintegration into society have been proven to work over the lock em up and throw away the key model, because research tells us that places that have trialled 3-strikes have higher murder rates, bigger prison populations; and leave a huge impact on marginalised populations (read Maori) and higher costs and negative impacts on the families of offenders.

Mr Speaker, while I'm not a great fan of British justice, I note that the Justice Committee of the British House of Commons recently made the case for justice reinvestment - calling for a more holistic approach to crime reduction by tackling the conditions of criminality - poverty, low educational attainment, drug and alcohol problems, and the lack of housing and employment.

Their report came out of very clear evidence that prison is a very expensive way of dispensing justice and seeking reform, and concluded that justice reinvestment was a far more prudent, rational, effective and humane use of resources.

Last week, Dr Pita Sharples took a step down a similar path when he announced the establishment of two new reintegration units where the focus will be on helping inmates prepare for life outside the wire, using kaupapa Maori to help prisoners get jobs and accommodation and help them improve relationships with whanau and with their communities.

But even still, it seems that our focus is elsewhere because only 5% of Justice and Corrections budgets are spent on rehabilitation, reintegration and crime prevention, while the majority of the money gets burned up in admin, staffing, buildings, and beefed up security measures for bigger prisons.

And when you spend only 5% of your budget on rehabilitation, you can guarantee that all your high-falutin' plans will not only fail, they will eventually come back to bite you on the backside, and if not you, then certainly your children and your grandchildren.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party opposes this Bill with all its heart, and we will work with whomever it takes, to develop intelligent policy over kneejerk idiocy, and rehabilitation over degradation.

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