Monday, 18 October 2010

Chris Kahui

There has been considerable criticism of Chris Kahui following his evidence at the inquest into the deaths of his children. What haunts me was the story from the reporter who commented on Kahui, after giving evidence, struggling for 4 hours to read the transcript of his evidence. This together with the struggle to give evidence which made sense, and the slowness of answers paints a picture of a man with, at best profound reading difficulties. Those who meet consumers of the criminal justice system report that such difficulties are common. Tony Ellis has commented with some passion on acting for the intellectually disabled, and the difficulty of getting sensible instructions. The problem with Chris Kahui demonstrates that many with learning disabilities also have problems in the justice system, although he would not be labeled as intellectually disabled. Where are the reading and other programs in prisons and where are the community based initiatives to deal with these learning difficulties? Some of the community based programs were abolished with the cutbacks in community education earlier this year. And there are more programs in prison now than under the previous administration. So where does this lead to?
We need to understand that a chunk of our prison population is there because they have education problems of differing degrees, including illiteracy, dyslexia, and even deafness preventing them from understanding what they were taught. So the solution is to punish them by placing them in groups with similar problems, in a place where they don't get much chance to repair their shortcomings. At least we do not execute them or chop off hands, but sometimes I think execution would be preferable for me rather than being locked up for 20 years. Chris Kahui was acquitted, but the profile he presents is similar to many who fall through the education cracks into jail.

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