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Advocate says the Government’s $1.9 billion allocation to corrections is ‘farcical’

13 June, 2024

Interview by Castor Chacko, adapted by James Russell

Spokesperson for People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Emmy Rākete, says the Government’s $1.9 billion corrections budget will not adequately assist prisoners to reintegrate into society.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, announced a budget of $1.9 billion to invest in corrections over the next four years, with $78 million being allocated to rehabilitation programmes.

The funding will establish 470 new correction officers across Aotearoa and will include putting 810 beds in Waikeria Mega Prison near Te Awamutu; one of the country’s largest prisons.

In a statement, the Minister of Police and Corrections, Mark Mitchell, has said this investment will make New Zealanders safer and offer far more support for existing offenders to reduce future crime.

People Against Prisons Aotearoa spokesperson, Emmy Rākete, told 95bFM’s The Wire that the government’s expansion of the Waikato prison in the name of rehabilitation is nothing but ‘‘farcical’’.

“I think this approach to rehabilitation or providing mental health in prisons is so backwards.”

“You can’t get somebody’s mental health treated if you’re taking them out of the community, shipping them across the country away from their family who they’re not going to see, possibly for years at a time, and keeping them in a concrete cage.”

Rākete says the government holds a double standard, where money for housing, education, employment, and healthcare is seemingly nonexistent while $1.9 billion is being promised to our prison systems — where additional facilities are currently not required. 

Rākete believes the allocation in corrections will not address the root causes as to why prisoners end up incarcerated in the first place.

“[The Government] understands this is a very effective way of clamping down on working class dissent and on privatising responsibility for social harm.”

“They create the conditions that produce crime, that produce suffering, then, through mass-incarceration, turn it into the responsibility only of individuals.”

Tax data that was provided to the organisation through an Official Information Act Request shows nine out of ten prisoners did not pay income tax in their first few months incarcerated, which Rākete suggests means these individuals were either unemployed or working under the table jobs.

She believes a better way to rehabilitate incarcerated people back into the public is to shift society’s perspective on those in prison.

“[How society views prisoners is] completely absurd. If we thought of incarcerated people, as human beings, we would know it is absurd.”

Listen to the full interview