It’s easy to dismiss the problems in our prisons – bad stuff happens to bad people – out of sight out of mind.
That is the thorny crown atop the grief for Cassandra Harwood – whose partner Wayne Hotton died in Mt Eden Correctional Facility.
Is it not enough that she has lost the man she loved – the father of her three-year-old daughter Eden? To then suffer our community’s disdain for those locked away in prison – that just adds to the pain.
When I spoke to 30-year-old Cassandra yesterday a tremor in her voice disclosed her fragility – but what she told me revealed a real courage and strength. She decided to speak out about Wayne’s death knowing she owes it to her partner and to his children to ensure he is remembered with some respect.
And knowing that she wants to save another partner – another family – the grief of losing a loved one to our brutally indifferent prison system.
Cassandra says it’s time to create an independent prison inspectorate. This could investigate complaints of violence and abuse in both private prisons like Serco’s Mt Eden and Wiri – and public prisons like Paremoremo Springhill Rolleston and Otago.
Most of the inmates in our prisons aren’t nice people or good people. But the sentences we impose on them – sentences decided by the parliaments we elect and the judges we appoint – are of jail time. We do not sentence them to violence – brutality – inhumanity.
To do that would be to disavow our own human decency.