I’m guessing most of the country has moved on from this issue, but last week I suggested that vto post his email reply from Garrett on the `creature comforts’ issue. He didn’t want to, which is fair enough, but I was interested in my own personalised bit of invective, so I emailed him myself.
I didn’t get invective, I got an explanation of what (and how) he really thinks on this matter, which is most excellent. For all that I disagree with his policies and his ideas, David appears to be entirely lacking in guile, which can only be a good thing inasmuch as it enables the electorate to take him at face value. (Ok, not entirely without guile – he was complaining on Focus On Politics (audio) on Friday that the media take his jocular utterances too seriously.)
The email thread is reproduced verbatim below the fold. I had delayed posting this over the weekend in order to give David time to reply to my last message, but as of this morning he hasn’t done so.
From: Lewis Stoddart
Sent: Thursday, 12 March 2009 09:09:47
To: David Garrett
I note with some concern your remarks regarding the possible
consequences of double-bunking in NZ prisons, particularly in your press release “Forget Inmates’ Creature Comforts”
(http://scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0903/S00131.htm). In that release, you make several particularly disturbing statements.
First, you argue that freedom from homosexual rape by another prisoner is a `creature comfort’, not a human right which should be guaranteed by the state. Does this somewhat sanguine attitude to sexual violence not conflict with your arguments about the rights of victims, or can someone imprisoned (for any reason) not be a victim by virtue of their imprisonment? What of those who are wrongly imprisoned, held on remand, or imprisoned for non-violent offences?
Second, you rightly state that “rape is a crime wherever it occurs, and can be dealt with in the same way as any other offence committed in prison.” Indeed, it can be. However offences committed in prison already go under-reported and under-prosecuted unless they offend against the integrity of the prison system, rather than against other prisoners. In addition, since only a small proportion of rapes in wider society are reported, and only a small proportion of those reported are actually prosecuted, do you not agree that a heightened incidence of rape in prison will go largely unreported and unprosecuted? If you disagree, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.
Third, and most concerning, you say “The fact is: if you don’t want to be assaulted – or worse – by a cellmate, avoid prison by not committing a crime”. This implies that anyone who ends up in a prison cell with a rapist gets what they deserve; that any assault – or worse – that they might suffer is nothing more than an unfortunate collateral effect of their imprisonment, which perhaps should be expected. Do you think rape should be an expected consequence of imprisonment in New Zealand? If not I invite you, again, to explain this remark.
ACT has billed itself as “The Liberal Party”, defending freedom and individual rights. It seems to me that such a party has a right to stand for the certainty of justice – that those convicted of a crime can expect to be duly punished for that crime, and serve out the full sentence imposed upon them by the law; no more and no less. Your unconcerned attitude toward the likelihood of more frequent prison rape implies that you accept that rape is a part of the punishment of imprisonment, that offenders by committing a crime can “buy jail, get raped free”. Once more, I am interested in how you can justify this position within the classical liberal framework of ACT.
Thank you for your consideration of this message, and I look forward to your reply.
To which I received the reply:
RE: ACT prison double-bunking policy
Date: Thursday, 12 March 2009 10:47:05
From: David Garrett
To: Lewis Stoddart
I really have nothing much to add to what is in the release, other than to say I did not intend to imply that freedom from homosexual rape was a “creature comfort”. But I will make two further points. For many years double bunking was a common and entirely uncontroversial practice. Perhaps it is a symptom of how soft we have got on the treatment of criminals (voluntary work, plasma tvs, uinderfloor heating) that is now an issue in many people’s minds.
Prison was never supposed to be comfortable. If you look at crime figures against ever more liberal penal policy, did you ever think there just MIGHT be a connection? Many middle class people simply cannot comprehend that many criminals actually don’t mind jail at all – they can’t comprehend it, because of us middle class middel aged guys the deprivation of liberty in itself is a huge punishment. If you talk to anyone who works in prisons you will quickly be made aware that for many criminals this is just not so; three sqaure meals a day cooked an paid for by someone else, the ability to work out in the gym and then retire to a centrally heated cell is for them a very fair price for loss of liberty for a year or two.
I DON”T suggest that homosexual (or heterosexual for that matter) rape should be considered as “just part of the punishment”. I DO believe that we need to get away from the silly philosophy that has underpinned penal policy for 40 years “You go to prison as punishment no for punishment”, but the “extras” I have in mind involve compulsory work and solitary
confinent or diet restrictions as punishment for misbehaviour I prison, not rape.
It may interest you to know that all of our caucus agree with my sentiment that it is easy to avoid any of the unpleasant consequences of prison by the simple expedient of not committing crime – particularly violent crime; not many go to prison these days for other than serios violent offences.
ACT’s philosophy has been and remains that people have choices, and they must accept the consequences of those choice. Crime is no different. Classical liberal philosophy – boiled down to its most basic – is that everyone has the right to make free choices about what they do, with two caveats: they must not infringe the rights of others – which criminals have by definition done – and they must accept the consequences of those choices.
I doubt I have altered you view – perhaps I have hardened it! But I thank you for taking to time to write an obviously well considered e-mail. I hope you feel you have received a considered reply.
David Garrett MP
ACT New Zealand
T: 04 8176631
F: 04 4733532
To which I replied:
Date: Thursday, 12 March 2009 18:35:43
From: Lewis Stoddart
To: David Garrett
Thank you for your reply, David. Unfortunately it doesn’t really clear up the questions, because your position is contradictory. The two statements which are most evidently inconsistent are these:
“I DON”T suggest that homosexual (or heterosexual for that matter) rape should be considered as “just part of the punishment”.”
“everyone has the right to make free choices about what they do, with two caveats: they must not infringe the rights of others – which criminals have by definition done – and they must accept the consequences of those choices”
Given that double-bunking (whether it was once uncontroversial is irrelevant; so was the lash) will likely increase the incidence of rape, the statements contradict because that policy will simply become one of the consequences of those `choices’ which led to prison in the first place.
Since double-bunking is not intended as a corrective measure, but as a cost-saving measure, the question is: how many corrections dollars must be saved for ACT to consider another rape to be a tolerable (if unfortunate) collateral effect? I understand this is a distasteful utility calculation to have to face. But it must be faced when the state weighs up monetary cost against human safety, even that of prisoners, who are after all still human.