Hard News by Russell Brown


Media Take: The price of imprisonment

The episode of Media Take that screened last night is our last for a while. We'll be back on August 22 to cover the general election campaign and its aftermath. And I'm happy to say we went out with a good one.

For various reasons, the show has done less media commentary and been more of a place for korero about issues this year, and this week's episode looks at the debate about New Zealand's prison system, whose population recently exceeded 10,000 – a new record. Growth in the number of New Zealanders imprisoned has continued even as  the number of convictions has fallen. New inmates are more likely to be Māori than ever before.

The cost of the system is spiralling: last week, Finance minister Steven Joyce described growth in the prison population as "unprecedented" and "unanticipated" in discussing a Budget that allotted nearly a billion dollars in operational funding to the Department of Corrections – and an additional $763 million in new capital funding to expand prison capacity.

In truth, it shouldn't have been a surprise: the growth in prison numbers is in part a consequence of a 2013 tightening of bail and remand laws championed by, among others, the Sensible Sentencing Trust. But what's going on here in a broader sense? Is this really working? And what are the social costs?

That's subject of the show. Toi and I are joined by Julia Whaipooti of JustSpeak, Sensible Sentencing Trust legal advisor David Garrett, AUT law lecturer Kylee Quince and two people with direct experience of the prison system: the manager of Hoani Waititi Marae Shane White, who also oversees reintegration initiatives and writes tikanga programmes for the Department of Corrections, and Tricia Walsh, whose quiet bearing of witness is the most powerful element of a sometimes fractious programme.

I should note that we recorded well over time and the half-hour version of the show screening tonight will be a tough edit. But you can catch the extra "open floor" discussion online at the Media Take on-demand page shortly after the programme airs and it'll all be in the extended version of the show that screens on Sunday at 11.30am.

You can watch this week's episode and the extra "open floor" korero here on demand.

Media Take extended screens at 11.30am Sunday, Māori Television

PS: Yes, I am available to consider other work for the next 10 weeks :-)

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