So, strangely, just as a $1.8 billion government “surplus” is announced* a billion-dollar need for more prison beds is discovered (or will it really be a $2.5 billion bill?) to bed down 1800 more prisoners in our already swollen prison population.
With a prison population of just under ten-thousand, New Zealand’s incarceration rate is not yet among the world’s highest – America’s 693 per 100,000 makes our 202 look positively like a land of the free – but it’s still a lot more than otherwise comparable countries like the UK (143), Australia (152) and Canada (115), and fewer than two-thirds are there for sexual or violent crimes.
But here’s the thing. The War on Drugs is not just a failure, not just a formula for easy profits for gangs, not just a violent crackdown on a victimless crime, it’s also one way the prison popuation is much greater than it would be otherwise.
End Prohibition and you don’t just take away profits from gangs and reduce the violence around drugs, you also get to reduce the prison population by around fifteen percent.
Which is frighteningly close to that figure of 1800 beds the government reckons it needs to lock up the victims of victimless crimes.
So end the War on Drugs and (if the surplus is genuine*) then you have a legitimate argument for tax cuts without commensurate spending cuts. Don’t, and you won’t.
* Or is it really even a real surplus when net Crown debt increased by $1.3 billion? You tell me.