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2015 Penal Reform

The aim of the seminar is

  • to provide a current assessment of the country’s penal system
  • to work out where Quakers might stand in terms of their testimonies for truth, social justice, equality, and peace.

The 16 participants at the 5th biennial Quaker Seminar on Penal Reform were full of praise for the excellent seminar content, comfortable Settlement facilities and wonderful catering. Tony Taylor and Allan Harvey invited  a group of notable speakers from The Department of Corrections,  Re-thinking Crime and Punishment,  Restorative Justice and Practices, Just Speak (Youth Crime), Robson-Hanan Trust, along with 2 participants  who had served a prison sentence

Some of the issues:

  • the need to address issues behind re offending  e.g. drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence

and to start at a very early age.

  • the importance of motivating inmates into meaningful activity e.g 60 prisoners in Rolleston Prison

are involved in building new houses for Christchurch

  • that crime numbers have reduced but the numbers in prison is rising ( In 2014 NZ

194/100,000:Australia 124/100,000: USA 700/100,000)

  • that there is no evidence that longer and harsher sentences reduce crime
  • inmates feel devalued.

·        visitor support very important –some inmates have no visitors

reintegration is a community problem and it must start with education – literacy and numeracy

– as well as strong support for prisoners after release.

  • those with a criminal record are not able to get insurance for house or car.
  • Whanganui City is committed to Restorative Practices in workplaces and schools and PAARS

is active and these need support

  • NZ should raise the age for a young person to be deemed an adult in the criminal justice system

from 17 to 18

  • once incarcerated in an adult  prison young  people may become life-long criminals

the Youth Court (up to age 16) is less formal and daunting and looks at the background  issues

facing the offender

  • UN working group on Arbitrary Detention found in 2014 that there was bias at all levels in NZ –

arrest, bail, prosecution and conviction

After brainstorming and prioritising issues several letters were written from the Seminar Group including 2 to

John Key and leaders of all other political parties

Re UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

And Re: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Statement and one to The Dominion

Newspaper responding to their lead article Saturday 28th February.

An inspiring seminar with participants determined to remain informed as well as active in re-thinking crime and

punishment in NZ.

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