Time to send prisoners overseas

Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012
prison stand
Who would take our prisoners?

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With annual costs of $790 million to house our criminals, is it time to look at sending our prisoners overseas to save on cost?

At present we have a system that recycles prisoners back in to society almost automatically when they have finished their imprisonment term or are paroled.

They are allowed to re-enter our society because they already have citizenship. If these prisoners were immigrants applying to enter New Zealand, their convictions would bar them from entry. 

By recycling prisoners back in to society the number of people in our communities who are currently in prison or have past criminal convictions is always increasing. It also means repeat offences are more likely to occur.

Citizenship is not an entitlement. Citizenship places obligations on citizens to obey the laws of the country and contribute to it. By breaking New Zealand's laws criminals are saying they don't want to comply with society's norms.

If criminals automatically lost their rights to citizenship upon conviction they could be sent to prospective host countries to be housed in the same or lesser manner to their own prisoners. They could also be put to work to recover their costs.

Loss of citizenship then allows for prisoners to be put on to the same footing as immigrants to apply to return to New Zealand at the end of their sentence. Not all criminals will be accepted back in to New Zealand and this over time will produce a better society overall with fewer citizens with criminal convictions and lead to lower crime rates.

Who would take our prisoners? Suitable countries with low labour costs and low standards for housing prisoners would have competitive advantages. Countries would also need to be able to agree to keep the prisoners who weren't successful in reapplying for their citizenship at the end of their sentences, so countries without social welfare systems, that have large populations, and are non-democratic would be ideal. China, with a prison population of 1.6 million, would be perfect to take our 8500 prisoners if this could be negotiated.

It would be possible to drastically reduce the annual costs for housing prisoners and this would be expected to continually reduce as the cycle of repeat offending is broken. In theory, cost savings of 80-90% could be possible saving the country $600+ million per year to be put into health care and education.

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