Judges throw book at prisoner drug rehab

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 01/01/2012
Parole Board chairman Judge David Carruthers and Chief Justice Sian Elias had read Flying Blind, while Otago University had also made the book recommended reading for criminology students.
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ
NOT FLYING BLIND: Parole Board chairman Judge David Carruthers and Chief Justice Sian Elias had read Flying Blind, while Otago University had also made the book recommended reading for criminology students.

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Dismayed judges have ordered Corrections bosses to read an expert's book on rehabilitation after being shocked a P-addicted prisoner would be forced to wait years for drug treatment.

In a Court of Appeal decision last month, three judges cited Roger Brooking's book Flying Blind, which slams the government's hard-line approach to law and order.

Long-term inmates must now wait until they are eligible for parole before being offered drug and alcohol rehabilitation in prison, but judges quashed Glen Fleming's minimum non-parole term of four years so he could seek treatment sooner.

The Bay of Plenty man is serving an eight-year sentence for manufacturing and supplying methamphetamine.

A Corrections spokesperson said the organisation would consider the judge's ruling but Brooking fears Corrections will dismiss the message. "Corrections operates, as far as I can see, as a law unto itself," Brooking said.

The drug and alcohol counsellor said he comes across cases like Fleming's on a weekly basis. His frustration at the lack of support and rehabilitation for prisoners led him to write Flying Blind.

Brooking said he was pleased the Court of Appeal had taken the book seriously. "It's a bit of a poke in the eye for National. They refused to accept copies of the book."

Brooking provided free books to MPs in September, but National members were the only ones to refuse the offer. "Since the Court of Appeal has recommended Corrections management should read the book, hopefully National MPs who refused to even look at it will reconsider."

Brooking's affidavit to the court supported removing the non-parole period for Fleming on the basis the P-addict urgently needed rehabilitation.

The judges said Fleming's chances of rehabilitation would be reduced if he was forced to wait until he was up for parole. They removed his non-parole period, and although they refused to express their view on Flying Blind, they called for Corrections to speak up on the issue.

"The wider issue of the availability of rehabilitation programmes in prison for drug offenders, and the timing of such programmes, is a matter of importance and some public controversy," the judges wrote. "It is important the department's policies on this issue be known to sentencing judges so they can be taken into account in sentencing decisions."

A Corrections spokesman confirmed the department had read the decision. "We have noted the comments made and will be giving them due consideration."

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Rehabilitation and reintegration assistant manager Dr David Wales said thousands of prisoners received drug or alcohol treatment every year. "It's really easy to come at this from a drug and alcohol point of view, but we have to look at the whole person and all the issues that contribute to their offending," he said.

However, Brooking said setting up a drug court, increasing rehabilitation programmes, and investing in halfway houses could cut crime. Parole Board chairman Judge David Carruthers and Chief Justice Sian Elias had read Flying Blind, while Otago University had also made the book recommended reading for criminology students.

- Sunday Star Times

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