New Zealand likes putting people in prison. In fact we're pretty good at it. According to Statistics NZ more than three-quarters of OECD countries have prison population rates below 140 per 100,000 population. New Zealand’s rate of 155 places it seventh-highest in the OECD, just below Mexico.
With our enthusiasm for locking people up, it is no surprise that the prison system is overcrowded.
So Chief Justice Sian Elias has come up with a very sensible suggestion. Why don't we just stop locking so many people up?
She is suggesting giving some prisoners an amnesty as a way of relieving prison overcrowding and has pointed out that the system works in other countries.
'If not we will have to keep building prisons and diverting resources into incapacitation. . .,'Elias warned yesterday.
Predictably, the government has rejected the sensible suggestion of the Chief Justice. It would rather waste more money locking people up in converted shipping containers.
A prominent media cheerleader has backed the government's reactionary position.
Failed National Party candidate Paul Henry was at it again this morning on Breakfast.
Echoing the comments of the Justice Minster Simon Powers, Henry criticised Elias for having an intelligent opinion - perhaps he's jealous.
According to Henry , who is never slow in voicing his own dreary right wing opinions, Elias should just keep her mouth shut and just enforce government policy.
He is not the impartial observer he is pretending to be and - surprise - Garth McVicar of the very right wing Sensible Sentencing Trust appeared yet again on Breakfast.
McVicar, who lives in the Land That Time Forgot, was all 'outraged' and he lambasted the good judge.
McVicar though has no new solutions to offer himself. He just wants to keep on locking people up despite all the evidence that this does nothing at all to reduce crime rates.
Paul Henry though supports Sensible Sentencing.
Garth McVicar was on Breakfast last Christmas and this is what Henry said:
Now, he’s a good man that Garth. Are you still there Garth? Happy Christmas to you by the way. You’ve had, I think, a very successful year for the Sensible Sentencing Trust too, and he works so very hard for it. So have a good Christmas and New Year Garth.
What really offends Henry is not that Sean Elias has public expressed her opinions - he just doesn't like what she has got to say.