Thursday, May 01, 2008

Government By Deniability

This pants government's criminal failure to build enough prison places has already killed and injured countless innocent people. And the latest ugly twist promises to make things even worse.

Because there aren't enough prisons, criminal scum have to be sprung early and left to roam our streets. Some of them are accommodated in bail hostels, including those run by a highly appropriately named subcontractor, Clearsprings. Here's how they describe their hostel service:

"It will... provide accommodation and support for offenders who are nearing the end of their sentence and are eligible to be released on Home Detention Curfew (HDC) on a tag from prison and therefore ready to be rehabilitated back into their community."

Clear enough. Except extraordinarily, the government denies that's Clearspring's role at all. Prisons Minister David Hanson says:

"It's for people who have not been found guilty. The courts rule they are a safe risk to be put into the community while waiting trial."

Yet another complete bog-up from the Simple Shopper's mammoth book of how not to manage suppliers? Possibly. But it sounds much more like a prime example of government by deniability.

Like nuclear storage facilities, bail hostels are on everyone's Big NIMBY List. From predatory paedophiles to violent killers, they have a shocking record of bringing danger right into the heart of the community.

No politico is up for that kind of heat, we know that. So how much easier to appoint a subcontractor on some wibbly waffley don't-ask-don't-tell contract? Then, when it turns out Clearsprings have been opening scores of bail hostels in ordinary residential streets - informing neither the neighbours nor even the local authorities concerned - you as Prisons Minister simply deny it's anything to do with you.


As we've blogged many times, Public Accounts Committee probes are constantly uncovering "not me guv" arrangements, whereby nobody actually has clear overall responsibility. This is just one small step further.

And government by deniability has a long and dishonourable history. Governors washing their hands of crucifixions, kings ridding themselves of turbulent priests, fascist dictators liquidating enemies by proxy, and spineless wibblers like Hanson hiding behind half-baked subcontracting deals.

Double the number of prison places... much longer sentences for violent offences... three strikes and you're out... an end to automatic parole...

Now, how do we get them to do that?

We can make a start by voting today for a councillor who believes in those things.

If we can find one.

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