ACT’s brave new MP David Garrett continues to defend the indefensible. Still proudly defending his insistence that the already fairly toothless Bill of Rights Act be further emasculated to suit his view of the importance of individual rights -- “we've got too hung up on people's rights," maintains the “liberal” party’s most unlikely representative -– he’s now got his back even further to the wall, at Lindsay Mitchell’s blog, on the subject of the safety of prisoners.
In defending his implicit assumption that there’s no one in our jails who are there only for victimless crimes, he makes this explicit challenge to Mike Earley,
if you can draw my attention to anyone who is in jail for "smoking pot" and nothing else, $100 is yours...
Looks like he is as foolish as he is ill-informed. Quick as a flash, Mike obliges.
One begins to realise the beauty of Keith Holyoake’s advice to new MPs to breath through their nose for their first three years. And also, perhaps, of Mark Twain’s valuable advice to fools.
UPDATE: Liberty Scott clarifies the problem with Mr Garrett’s position:
It is one thing to say prison shouldn't be comfortable - which is right, it shouldn't have TV, videos and the like. Similarly the smuggling of drugs and cellphones should be stamped upon.
It is another to be nonchalant about prisoners being raped.
So now [from the ACT Party and its supporters] we have that it's okay for people to be in prison for growing cannabis for personal use, okay to be in prison for sedition, presumably also for inciting racial disharmony (three months sentence), tax evaders of course, blasphemy can have a prison term (though been a long time since used), as can consensual adults-only incest, as can possession of an erotic story involving consenting adults. . .
How fucking hard would it be for ACT to, in principle, oppose victimless crimes, while at the same time recognising that some victimless crimes need to be addressed comprehensively. . . ?
Obviously, no government will be conveniently keeping figures on how many they have incarcerated for victimless crimes, but when I last looked at this question NORML were pointing out that "New Zealand has the highest recorded cannabis arrest rate in the world, at 606 people arrested per 100,000 population per year. The United States is second with 247 arrests per 100,000 population per year."
Not a great statistic in which to come first. NORML's Cannabis Arrest-o-Meter shows too that there have been 123,303 cannabis offences [from 1000 to 2006] and that cannabis offences number just over 80% of all drug offences. So that's an awful lot of victimless arrests.
As for the prison population ... if you check the recent NZ Corrections Dept stats ... of 6,250 prisoners (costing taxpayers $56,575 per year) they suggest upwards of nine percent of male offenders are incarcerated for drug offences, and eight percent for traffic offences.
"The main reasons [given] for male imprisonment are: 39 percent for violence offences; 22 percent for sexual violence offences; 22 for property offences (e.g. burglary), 9 percent for drug offences; 8 percent for traffic offences." Yes, traffic offences.
Meanwhile, Blair Anderson from the Mild Greens has some more recent figures:
Drug offences rose slightly between 2007 and 2008 from 18,908 in 2007 (year ending 30 June) to 19,259 in 2008. Within this overall rise there was a shift in the composition of these offences with more Cannabis related offences (14,449 to 15,288) and fewer offences for other and most often harder, drugs (4,450 to 3,971). Overall the level of drug related crime is 13% lower in 2008 than in 2004 when there were 22,249 drug offences of which 18,271 were Cannabis related.
First I reiterate a part of a post from earlier in the week;
"’ The fact is: if you don't want to be assaulted - or worse - by a cellmate, avoid prison by not committing a crime,’ Mr Garrett said."
“I wonder if Mr Garrett has forgotten that there are people in our prisons who are not violent; people who are guilty only of victimless crimes; people who should properly be in the care of psychiatrists and nursing staff; people who are on remand awaiting trial who may not even be convicted. . .”
And as always, Lindsay likes to base her own case on the figures, and Chris Fowlie at NORML has supplied Lindsay with some numbers from the 2002 Health Select Committee cannabis inquiry report:
p32: "Of the 9,399 prosecutions for the use of cannabis, 6,761 resulted in convictions, and 52 custodial sentences were imposed."
And from parliamentary questions:
Question 8479 (2004) … Paul Swain (Minister of Corrections):
The total number of inmates imprisoned for possession of drugs but not manufacture or supply of drugs in each of the last five years is as follow:
1999 431 inmates
2000 430 inmates
2001 443 inmates
2002 386 inmates
2003 411 inmates
2004 157 inmates (up to 31 May 2004)
As Lindsay says, “While most sentences would have been for drugs other than cannabis, these substantial numbers represent the victimless crimes alluded to.”
These are just some of the people Mr Garrett and his ACT Party wish to ignore.
And he still owes Mike $100.