Before the recent election, Wellington alcohol and drug counsellor Roger Brooking offered to give a free copy of his critical expose of the justice system to every member of Parliament. His new book is called Flying Blind – How the justice system perpetuates crime and the Corrections Department fails to correct. He asked Chester Borrows (National), Grant Robertson (Labour) and Kennedy Graham (Greens) to meet him on the steps of parliament on September 13 to accept copies on behalf of their respective MPS.
Grant Robertson and Kennedy Graham agreed. So did Mr Borrows – at first. But after consultations with caucus colleagues, he changed his mind. In a churlish display of ingratitude, the National party has refused to accept copies of the book out of fear that the title of the book is too provocative. Mr Borrows wrote to Mr Brooking saying:
“I think the subtitle of the book runs counter to the current achievements in Corrections…. No matter how you may mitigate the subtitle within the pages of the book, the immediate proposition will be what is reported and perceived. I believe that appearing to receive the books will look like an endorsement of a publication which sets out to be provocative and will be seen as counter to any rehabilitative work being done in prisons presently.”
Is this a classic case of judging a book by its cover? Readers can decide for themselves.
Unfortunately, such anti-intellectualism is rampant in New Zealand politics and undermines the use of academic research and the development of evidenced-based policy. The Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, seems to agree. Sir Peter is quoted in Flying Blind saying that New Zealand is still driven by a No 8 wire mentality.
Brooking makes the case that Garth McVicar is the chief proponent of the No 8 wire mentality in this country. The problem is McVicar is a farmer – with no qualifications in law, sociology, psychology or criminology. Flying Blind describes the links between Garth McVicar and the National party and shows how this relationship is responsible for much of New Zealand’s overly simplistic, ‘lock ’em up’ approach to penal policy.