Bill balks at building more jails, true, but this is readily reconciled with Crusher’s plans

And if we run out of containers, we can try Joe's tent idea.

Alf is much more appreciative of Bill English than the law-and-order lobbyists who lament he has gone lame.

Tossers like Garth McVicar have seized on something Bill said without taking into account what he was busting to say next, before his Q+A interview was abruptly terminated.

McVicar – at the Sensible Sentencing Trust.- is accusing Bill of destroying the good work done by Crusher Collins and Simon Power by saying we shouldn’t build any more prisons.


English did cavil with the idea of spending good public money on building more prisons.

But where in the inteview did he say he objected to banging up bad buggers in converted shipping containers?

His reluctance to spend more on new prisons in no way is inconsistent with anything Collins and Power have said and/or done.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has sent Alf a media statement (yet to be posted on-line when this was being written) in which McVicar says –

“I deplore Mr. English for capitulating at this critical stage just as the message was starting to get through that crime will not pay and the law means what it says.”

Mr McVicar said while understanding the need to balance the books Mr. English’s comments that prison is a “fiscal and moral” failure showed he has no understanding of what Prisons are for.

“The primary purpose of Prison [as it is Govt.] is to protect the public, a job Prisons do very well. Prisons are not – and never can be – a one stop shop to rehabilitate all the misfits created by years of failed social policies.”

McVicar went on to say that if Bill was really serious about cutting the cost of prisons, he should think about setting up a Tent City prison [Arizona style] in the middle of the desert road.

Sheriff Joe’s tent prisons cost $110,000 US to house 600 inmates, a big saving on the estimated $52 million to house the same number in the grand style of New Zealand prisons.”

Sheriff Joe, by the way, is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose approach to penal reform includes the reinstitution of chain gangs.

And he introduced pink underwear, obviously to make his charges look more attractive.

Arpaio’s success in gaining press coverage with the pink underwear resulted in his extending the use of the color. He introduced pink handcuffs, using the event to promote his book, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s Toughest Sheriff.[

He boasts that he pays less per day to feed his inmates than to feed his prison dogs. This is fiscally admirable.

If you look real heard, there was nothing in what Bill said on Q+A to rule out such ideas being introduced here.

Let’s check the transcript.

He was asked:

Just in the last couple of minutes we do have, I know that one area of state spending that you are worried about is law and order and the growth in that Budget – $3.5 billion out of the $73 billion-odd that the government spends. In fact, you’ve recently called prisons a moral and fiscal failure. Are you going to stop building prisons now? Are you still going to build the 1000-bed prison at Wiri?

Bill replied yes we are.

That’s well through the process, and we need the extra thousand beds because it’s been part of this government’s policy and public pressure for tougher sentences and a safer community-

GUYON Interesting choice of words there – ‘public pressure’. Do you think this has been sparked by public pressure and populism by government and not actually realistic policy-making?

ENGLISH Oh, no, I think it’s been realistic policy-making, but the need for the thousand beds has been building over the last 10 or 12 years going right back to the Norm Withers petition back in the late ’90s. But prisons are expensive, and everyone in the law and order system – from the police, though the courts, through to the prison and probation service – has been working pretty hard on trying to understand how to make that system more cost effective-

GUYON So is that the last prison, then, in your government’s tenure? Because you can’t say it’s a moral and fiscal failure and then keep doing it, can you? That’s just not credible.

ENGLISH Well, I’d hope it’s the last prison because they’re very, very expensive. $250,000 a bed, $90,000 a year to run it, and when we’re tight for money, it would be good if we could have less recidivism, less reoffending, less young people coming into the whole pipeline where they start with a minor offence and end up with a 10-year sentence. And the public service has done a lot of very smart work on this, and over the next two or three years, we’re going to see the need for prison beds drop a bit at least.

GUYON Ok, that’s where we pretty much leave it. Thank you very much, minister, for joining us. We really appreciate it.

So Bill said that we’re going to see the need for prison beds drop a bit over the next two or three years.

It’s what he was busting to say next that mattters.

Alf understands he wanted to go on to say we would convert containers into cells instead.

We wouldn’t need beds in them. Just a pile of hay in one corner.

The interviewer blew the final whistle before this idea could be expressed.

If McVicar wants to keep on bad-mouthing our Deputy Leader, Alf will personally press to have him locked up in one of these containers.

Or stick him in one of those tents he is advocating, but give him nothing to do.

Then we could charge him with loitering within tent

2 Responses to Bill balks at building more jails, true, but this is readily reconciled with Crusher’s plans

  1. Denis says:

    Check out this NZ Herald reminder about Garth Mcvicars legal adviser to the Sensible Sentencing Trust at

    • Alf Grumble says:

      Thanks for the steer, Denis. Sorry, but your comment has been trimmed back to the Herald reference – anyone who visits that site can read exactly what you wanted them to know.

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