Prison is where society sends its mistakes

“Prison is where societPrisonery sends its mistakes. Everyone inside is there because society has failed them.”

This is the key  statement by Paul Little in a column in the New Zealand Herald today. Little was commenting on the recent reports of gang violence in Mt Eden prison; he goes on to describe the tragic backgrounds of so many of the people we send to prison in this country. For instance…

“The case of the 13-year-old boy who endured the most squalid of upbringings before stabbing dairy owner Arun Kumar is extreme but not unique.

“He is just one of hundreds of people who grow up knowing nothing but violence and cruelty where there should be love and nurturing. Plenty more such children live on our streets, forging lives of desperation, their ultimate incarceration only a matter of time.

“Another considerable proportion of the prison population is made up of people who are there because we no longer have hospitals to cater for the mentally ill. Those who can’t find a place in the community are locked up where they won’t be a bother – to us, at least.

“That number also includes those who committed crimes under the influence of drugs, including alcohol. Drug addiction is a mental illness that should be treated as such….”

Little comes to the conclusion that…

“A prison is not a pound for humans, where we abandon animals we can’t control any more. We are all responsible for them being there as long as we support the system that puts them there.”

It’s encouraging to see prisoners described in the media as human beings instead of losers or ‘psychos’ (Patrick Gower, TV3 News, 10 November.) Its even more encouraging to see responsibility for their failure placed where it lies – on society, on you and me.

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