Hard News by Russell Brown

Locked up

Our prisons are full and frontline police are having to act as jailers. It appears that the four new prisons we're currently building will provide insufficient capacity. Well, that's what you get when you alter the system so as to lock up even more people.

Our incarceration rate, thanks to the major parties' tough-on-crime pissing contest, is up 16.5% since 2002. Under the Act-National policy, it would jump even more sharply.

Inevitably, Stephen Franks was on the radio this morning being disingenuous; claiming that New York was a shining example of how, if you throw more people in jail, eventually you'd be able to put fewer people in jail. This is nonsense. Over the time when New York's crime rate so drastically dropped, under Giuliani, its prison population did not increase, it fell. It was about active policing, not filling the jails:

The Institute drew a specific comparison between Texas and New York, the state closest in size to Texas. During the 1990s, Texas added more prisoners to its prison system (+98,081) than New York's entire prison population (73,233) by some 24,848 prisoners.

This means that the number of prisoners that Texas added during the 1990s was 34% higher than New York's entire prison population. While Texas had the fastest growing prison system in the country during the 1990s, New York had the third slowest growing prison population in the US.

Overall, during the 1990s, Texas added five times as many prisoners as New York did (18,001).

Yet since 1995, the study found that New York's decline in crime was four times greater than Texas' decline in crime. Texas' current incarceration rate (1,035 per 100,000) is 80% higher than New York's (574 per 100,000), yet Texas' crime rate (5,111 per 100,000) is 30% higher than New York's (3,588 per 100,000). In 1998, Texas' murder rate was 25% higher than New York State's rate.

Still, it appears it's not all bad at the level of the courts. My lawyer friend works with the Sentencing Act on a daily basis and he says it's actually a pretty good piece of legislation.

Meanwhile, former police sergeant Nigel Hendrikse, the victim of one of the four inmates awarded punitive damages as a consequence of abuse and beatings they suffered at Hawkes Bay's Mangaroa Prison is unhappy about the court's decision. This is perfectly understandable from his point of view, but I'm with No Right Turn on this one: if you don't want to have to make embarrassing payments to repugnant criminals, you don't allow abuse in your prisons. Phil Goff, I suspect, understands this perfectly well - and his angry response was just pre-emptive political theatre: get your outrage in ahead of your opponents and they have nothing left to say.

Alison Annan in the headlines again, this time mounting legal action to get back the job she appeared to have resigned from. Like I said, Christine Rankin Syndrome …

Busy day of airstrikes and ambushes on Today in Iraq. It also links to a story about a report on prospects for Iraq from the Royal Institute of International Affairs in Britain:

Worst-case scenario: Nothing can be done to avert bloody feuding among the Kurdish, Shia and Sunni factions, leading to fragmentation, chaos and civil war, accelerating widespread instability throughout the region.

But before that grim assessment is dismissed as more of the same from the nattering nabobs of negativism, check out the institute's best-case scenario: The Bush Doctrine, which virtually guaranteed the creation of a full-fledged democracy in Iraq friendly to the West, is hopelessly naive. The most the United States and its allies can hope for is a "muddle-through" scenario in which enormous amounts of money and military might are expended just to keep the country from disintegrating.

FightingTalk's Patrick Crewdson blogs a tartly satirical column about Destiny Church that he originally wrote for AUT journalism school paper, Te Waha Nui - but which was rejected for being too controversial or something. Really?

On the same site, Lydon Hood rips into the Dom Post's daft and deceitful 'Are Liberals Fascists?' story.

This Modern World's Tom Tomorrow has an alarming personal account of being arrested and locked up in the course of benign and legitimate protest in New York City last week. WTF is happening to that country? Who is giving the orders? I do find it bleakly humorous that round these parts various right-wing loudmouths are thrashing around claiming that Brian Tamaki (whose right to peaceful public protest was never in danger) is being oppressed when this sort of thing goes on in the Land of the Free.

And, finally, from the America I love, Macworld talks to an Apple exec about the hardware strategy in the new iMac G5. I'm in a priority queue for mine …