Saturday, June 14, 2008

three horrid hypocrites

off with their heads

This issue of SA’s prison system and our government’s attitude to criticism in this area has got me hooked for the moment. The Independent Weekly’s article linked in my previous post pointed out that correctional services officers, as public servants, are consigned to silence on the condition of our prisons, as this might imply criticism of our reverend ministers. So they’re effectively muzzled, as of course are the prisoners themselves – which leaves only the judiciary, the media and those with a humanitarian interest, such as civil rights activists.

The newspaper article also claims that some cells, designed for one person, have three occupants, and that rape is an extremely common occurrence. If some of those quoted are to be believed, you’re pretty well certain to be raped if you land up in one of our prisons, for whatever reason. So I wonder if the likes of Atkinson has ever been publicly confronted on this mess [assuming the reportage to be fair and accurate] with any determination. By someone who simply won’t let him get away with an ignoble je ne regrette rien response. Or does he have complete control over the media? My fantasy is that he goes on one of those schools visits that ministers must occasionally do, and that some cocky brilliant student asks him, in front of the assembled multitudes and before a sleepy camera crew on a slow news day, excuse me mr minister, why do we have longer prison sentences than other states, and why are our prisons the most overcrowded in the nation, and why are recidivism rates so high here, and why is rape in our prisons so prevalent and why is it that when anyone questions you on these matters you deny that there’s any problem and say that prison sentences are probably still not long enough? And why is it that you’ve called our second most senior magistrate, Andrew Cannon, delusional for criticizing the overcrowding of our prisons when in fact many others including well-known criminal lawyer Simon Slade, and journalists of the Independent Weekly have voiced similar criticisms? Are they delusional too Mr Minister?

But these are dreams.

Still, it’s great to see the judiciary here and interstate closing ranks in support of Cannon. They point out that his main point, that the overcrowding in prisons should be a factor in sentencing, is well-accepted in criminal law, and that Atkinson is far more out of step than Cannon is. But of course the judiciary can’t call for the offing of Atkinson and his populist mates, including Rann, that’s a job for journalists, activists and, dare I say, bloggers. Oh, I feel the responsibility keenly. Anyway, much as I’m looking forward to this government’s plans for public transport, I can’t see myself, in all conscience, voting labor at the next state election or at least not until Rann, Foley and Atkinson are removed from their ranks. Make it be soon.



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