Submissions on petition to reverse convictions for consensual homosexual acts close tomorrow

Bert and Ernie

Submissions on a petition in front of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee to reverse past convictions for consensual homosexual acts and issue an official apology to those convicted close tomorrow (Thursday 6 October 2016).

You can submit online here.

My submission:

I support this petition to reverse the convictions of people who were convicted of consensual homosexual acts and for the Government to officially apologise to them.

I strongly disagree with Justice Minister Amy Adams who has said that the process would be a hugely complicated task. It would not be onerous for the Government to set up a process to proactively review conviction files to void convictions for consensual acts which would be legal today.

Implementing the above would work towards restoring the human rights of those whose mana and dignity has been tarnished.

Image credit: See-ming Lee

Submission on the Bill extending benefit sanctions to people serving community sentences

Stacks of coins

My submission on the Social Security (Stopping Benefit Payments for Offenders who Repeatedly Fail to Comply with Community Sentences) Amendment Bill:

This Bill would extend the sanction regime to people on benefits who have a community sentence and who fail to comply with that sentence.

I note that section 186 does not give those people already on community sentences a grace period before this sanction can be applied to them.

This Bill highlights failures in the New Zealand justice system and does not address the underlying causes of non-compliance with community sentences.

A very concerning part of this Bill is that it would negatively affect children. If the Ministry of Social Development knows a child is dependent on the person whose benefit they propose to cut, the benefit can still be cut, but “only” by half. On the levels that benefits currently are, cutting a benefit in half will still be devastating for a family, and for the welfare of a child.

A person’s benefit can be restarted if they start to comply with the community sentence, but it’s unclear how they will be able to comply with their sentence if they have no money for transport. They might also not have money for food, rent, power or health costs – things that we recognise as minimal entitlements of prisoners. This Bill might push vulnerable people to committing petty crime in order to survive.

Our social security legislation should be a safety net. This Bill will further erode that. It will not make a positive difference to people or to society. It will not “rescue” people from their situation. It will not rehabilitate them. It will not increase public safety.

The Department of Corrections should be given more resources to take practical steps to address non-compliance. This Bill is not one of them.

Image credit: Nathaniel_U

When an internet forum solves a crime before the police

Hotel

“Seriously lacking hotel. Staff seems overwhelmed. Rooms are marginal at best. And then there’s the dead body in the water tower.” – Christopher Karwowski, Google Review

Elisa Lam went missing at the end of January 2013 and around February 19 was found in one of her hotel building’s water tanks, used by guests and residents for drinking and bathing. The hotel has a little history, like of serial killers staying there. To add to the weirdness her death was ruled an accident and the footage police released in an attempt to find her after she went missing was, well bizarre:

The police had searched the roof with dogs and either missed her body or it wasn’t there yet. A thread on Web Sleuth’s about the case makes eerie reading (look at the timestamps).

“Do you suppose LE physically checked every room (nook & cranny) in the hotel/hostel…??? or would they require a search warrant to do that…???”

tarabull at 02-09-2013, 03:56PM

“Ok, is there anywhere she may have gone into the water, or fallen off something?”

Wolf Dreamer at 02-14-2013, 04:29PM

“in my opinion i think it is very probable she got herself
stuck somewhere while hiding,
i really hope they have searched every mouse hole in that ***** hole”

Catchy kitty at 02-15-2013, 01:08AM

“Gotta ask the dumb question.

Do you think the police searched every room in the building?

Maybe she hasn’t left the building”

jetsetsam at 02-15-2013, 01:19 AM

“I have a hard time believing every nook and cranny has been searched – I feel like there’s a good chance she’s still in the building.”

tarabull at 02-16-2013, 12:01 PM

“There are other places in the hotel they could search without having to get a warrant, though… dumpsters, kitchen area, storage areas, the basement, to name a few. I’m sure the hotel managers would gladly allow it without a warrant.”

TxLady2 at 02-16-2013, 12:28 PM

“I really want to know if they have searched the WHOLE building. I think it is necessary.”

ahlang1226 at 02-16-2013, 03:50 PM

“Hoping that the roof and furnace room have been checked… Watched the video many times now and it really is freaky, wonder if Elisa’s friends can interpret any of her gestures?”

dotr at 02-17-2013, 01:14 AM

“Can the police just search the whole hotel please………Someone on facebook wrote this, bascically saying Elisa is still in the building:

‘I’m with Ken. She is still in the hotel. Either she was take to another hotel room, the roof, basement or… But I don’t believe she left. … I wish the police would check all the rooms and fire escapes and storage areas. I think she is still there.’”

ahlang1226 at 02-17-2013, 02:22 AM

Image credit: John Stavely

“WHY DO I HAVE TO TAKE MY HAT OFF?”

“In Massachusetts many banks agreed that their customers must remove their hats and sunglasses once they crossed a bank’s threshold. Of these branches, only 3% were robbed.” – The Economist

Perhaps the bank version of the “please turn off your digital devices” policy on planes is the no hats (or hoodies, or helmets, or sunglasses) policy.

Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is annoyed that the staff at his local ANZ branch continually ask him to remove his hat when he visits.

The sign at the door clearly indicates the policy, but Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is 83 and is no “young thug”, so he chooses to ignore it.

He puts ANZ staff into a difficult position because they can’t apply the policy discriminately to just the people they think look a bit dodge.

He notes that staff “usually relented because of his age and non-menacing appearance”. He puts the other staff working in the branch into an even more difficult position. Say someone else comes into the branch. Maybe they look dodgy, maybe they don’t. They’re also wearing a hat.

How do you explain to them that you’d like them to remove their hat when a couple of metres away Anthony is over there rocking his sports hat? Do you choose to ask the person who just walked in, potentially really offending one of your customers with the insinuation that they look suspect? Or do you not ask, knowing that the large majority of bank robbers cover their face/head in some way?

 This post represents my views, not my employer’s.

Election Roundup

Colin Craig’s Conservative Party of stock photos

Here’s a selection of where stock photos used in mailer six (pdf) are used elsewhere on the internet. Part one of our stock photo adventure is here.

Conservative Party seniors 1

Conservative Party image

Fidenza Asset Management

Fidenza Asset Management

Conservative Party you want safetyConservative Party image

Wallaby Motorhomes

Wallaby Motorhomes

Conservative Party futureConservative Party image

Life Health Solutions

Quote Alabama Insurance

Medical Center AssociatesMedical Center Associates

The Conservative Party is a bad influence

The ACT Party are using stock images on their Facebook pages. Here’s some from their small business section.

ACT Party 90 day trialACT Party image

Terrace 139 CreativeTerrace 139 Creative

ACT Party economic policiesACT Party image

The Small BusinessThe Small Business

And from the Gen Y section.

ACT Party New ZealanderACT Party image (you’d think they’d actually use a New Zealander)

Indiana Library Federation

Indiana Library Federation

Six reasons not to vote Conservative tomorrow

From their handy ‘How Conservative Are You?’ quiz.

  1. Welfare reform so that there is no pay without work and incentives are toward working and couples staying together. No benefits (“no pay without work”). Concerning that they want to incentivize couples to stay together. Creates a, I assume, financial, incentive to stay in a domestic violence situation. Not everyone wants to have a partner and they shouldn’t be penalized for that.
  2. That the legal drinking age be raised to 21 years of age. War on youth.
  3. That the ban on smacking be removed with a return to parents being able to use reasonable force in correcting their children. The law already has an exception “if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances”. Force shouldn’t be used instead of proper parenting.
  4. Tougher sentences for violent criminals along with a requirement that they work and learn while imprisoned. “Requirement that they work” seems like it would be slavery. Locking people up longer isn’t the magic answer to crime.
  5. In sentencing ‘life’ imprisonment shall actually mean life imprisonment. As above, this isn’t the magic bullet.
  6. That Citizens Initiated referendum should be binding if 67% or more of votes cast favour the proposal. (and apparently we’re having a referendum in 2014 – “That the 2014 election referendum should include the following questions …”) – Referenda are stupid in that questions are often worded in a way that solicits the response desired by the people behind the referendum. Binding referenda could unfairly affect minority groups. Here are some examples of ridiculous referenda we have had:
  • Should the number of professional firefighters employed full time in the New Zealand Fire Service be reduced below the number employed on 1 January 1995? (12.2% yes, 87.8% no – 1995 – 27% turnout)
  • Should there be a reform of our justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences? (91.8% yes, 8.2% no – 1999 – 84.8% turnout, held on day of general election) [emphasis mine, did 91% of New Zealanders who voted really support hard labour? Unlikely. Were they voting for better treatment of victims? Probably.]
  • I vote for compulsory military training. I vote against compulsory military training. (77.9% in favour, 22.1% against – 1949 – 63.5% turnout)

If I have crushed your Conservative Party dreams, and/or you’re not sure who to vote for tomorrow, check this website out.

Death to the Death Penalty

Electric Chair ProtestThe death penalty is nothing new but it caught my eye because of Osama Bin Laden reportedly being killed and because of the “let’s shoot the looters” comments I saw on a Christchurch earthquake Facebook page.

Death to the death penalty (video)
Stop the death penalty (video)

Let’s assume that Bin Laden was killed and buried straight away in the… ocean? This example is interesting as he wasn’t killed after he was sentenced to death by a court. However Obama said he: “…[made] the killing or capture of Bin Laden the top priority…”

Whether Bin Laden was killed intentionally or not I’m not sure. Now his body is in the water so we might not ever know. However I found the outpour of support for Bin Laden’s death and even the celebration resulting on sites like Twitter extremely interesting. And a lot of people were celebrating. I wondered if all of those people would support capital punishment in less extreme circumstances, like for the murder of one person? Or whether this event has changed their views to support the death penalty?

Did this bring about justice? I say no. A civilized trial would have created justice, in my opinion. Some said that the celebrations were justified because it symbolized the fighting and winning against terrorism. Because a figurehead of terrorism was downed. But Bin Laden was just that, a figurehead. Did he encourage hate, hurt and violence? Yes. Did he pull the triggers himself? No. Will someone take over his place leading Al-Qaeda? Yes.

More importantly, does this mean I’ll be able to take my bottle of water through airport security now?

@robinbogg Twitter Two Wrongs Make a Right - BREAKING: Children everywhere confused by sudden implementation of two wrongs make a right

The permanence of capital punishment is concerning. How sure would you need to be of someone’s guilt to support an execution? What if mistakes were made? Are a few false positives alright?

Does the death penalty grant relief to the suffering victim’s families?

This editorial in the New York Times says no: ‘In an open letter to the Connecticut Legislature, relatives of murder victims — 76 parents, children and others — wrote that “the death penalty, rather than preventing violence, only perpetuates it and inflicts further pain on survivors.”’ The death penalty deepens the wounds and the pain of victims’ families and the accused’s family. It creates more victims and continues the cycle of violence.

This page has stories from inmates’ families on how they’ve been affected by an execution. Bill Babbitt turned in his brother for committing a murder and was under the assumption that his brother would get the help he needed. His brother who was a paranoid schizophrenic was sentenced to death. Robert Meeropol talks about having both of his parents executed when he was six-years-old.

The death penalty makes it easy to “solve” re-offending without having to deal with the policies behind parole. It’s also easy to say prison officers would be protected, when in reality issues surrounding staff security need to be sorted.

Instead of putting forward the death penalty as a solution for crime, let’s create better policies. Policies that identify youth that are at-risk of offending. Better mental health services. Let’s remind ourselves that people released from prison need support starting well before they’ve been released to successfully assimilate back into society.

Alternatives to capital punishment might be the way out. Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Johnny Holmes says “you’re not going to find 12 people back-to-back on the same jury that are going to kill somebody when the alternative is throwing away the key.”

Is there a humane way to kill someone?

By poisoning with the lethal injection? Where are those drugs coming from?

Texas was reluctant to release where the drugs they use in their death row come from. Besse Medical, apparently. Feigning ignorance, Besse say they “…[have] no way to determine what its customers, including the Texas corrections department, does with its products.”

That article reports a shortage of U.S. made lethal injection drugs and says states have had to import from overseas. As overseas countries ban the export of those drugs for use in executions (“that supply dried up after the British government in November banned its export for use in executions”) and drugs are imported from dubious sources or drugs are reappropriated, concerns should be raised over the quality and efficiency of the drugs being used. Are they going to kill someone quickly and painlessly? Oklahoma is using an anesthetic, pentobarbital, that’s used in animal euthanasia solutions.

What level of training do the people administering the drugs have regarding administration or dosage?

Short answer: University of Miami researchers say none. It appeared prisoners were assumed to be successfully anaesthetised if they were given a standard dose of thiopental, but this wouldn’t be true if the drug was given incorrectly, the execution took longer than anticipated or the prisoner had anxiety or serious substance abuse issues. After analyzing autopsy data for 49 prisoners who had been executed, researchers found that in 43 cases the concentration of anaesthetic in the prisoners’ blood were lower than required in surgery. Out of those 43, 21 of the concentrations “were consistent with [the prisoner] being aware of what was going on.”

…the researchers, led by Dr Leonardis Koniaris, said: “We certainly cannot conclude that these inmates were unconscious and insensate.”

“However, with no monitoring and with little use of the paralytic agent, any suffering of the inmate would be undetectable.”

They add: “The absence of training and monitoring, and the remote administration of drugs, coupled with eyewitness reports of muscle responses during execution, suggest that the current practice for lethal injection for execution fails to meet veterinary standards.”

As a society we can do better than a primitive band-aid on the long-term problem of crime.

See also: an eye for an eye ends up making everybody blind.

Image credit: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty