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PoliticsApril 29, 2019

Brian Tamaki’s bizarre self-sabotaging ‘inmate revolts’ threats


Publicly telling the world a bunch of private visitors intend to cause prisoner revolts is a very good way of giving prison authorities “reasonable grounds” to deny you entry, writes Andrew Geddis

For someone who says he simply wants his Destiny Church’s “Man Up/Tu Tanganta” programme (sorry, “lifestyle”) to help “restore men to their true identity” in prisons, Brian Tamaki sure seems to behave in some peculiar ways.

First of all, despite delivering to parliament a petition of some 14,695 people demanding – demanding! – that the government fund this lifestyle project within the prison system, he’s apparently never actually applied for this to happen. It would seem that the government instead is expected to meet the church on bended knee and just give it cash to deliver all the great results that totally come out of Man Up’s teachings but haven’t actually, you know, been independently verified.

Unsurprisingly, the government has been somewhat reluctant to adopt this unconventional approach to providing prison rehabilitation services. And in recent comments to Newsroom’s Laura Walters, the corrections minister, Kelvin Davis, has made it pretty clear that he didn’t think Tamaki’s pet project would ever make it through a formal application process (if one should happen to be lodged, that is):

“I don’t trust any contract that they had – if they were to work in prisons – wouldn’t go into funding an extravagant lifestyle, overseas holidays, cars, jewellery, and Harley Davidsons. I don’t believe the money would go where they say it would go.”

So, it would seem that Tamaki has some reassuring to do if he ever is to achieve his goal; which is, remember, totally all about helping men in prisons to overcome dysfunction and lead better lives. As his motives and methods in doing so are being questioned, then he’ll obviously want to reassure Davis and the rest of the government of his good intentions and practices. Because in the end it’s all about helping others, right?

Which made Tamaki’s social media behaviour this morning somewhat … odd. For in response to Davis’s reported remarks, Tamaki told the world in broken twitterspeak: “We will plan thru Private Visits to inmates in every Prison to bring ManUp in nd cause inmate revolts in evey prison”.

Let’s just say that publicly pledging to stir up “inmate revolts” is not likely to get you what you want from a corrections minister or his government. What is more, announcing you are planning to do it is a spectacularly self-defeating tactic.

You see, oddly enough prisons are not particularly easy places to get in and out of. The right to do so is very tightly constrained by regulations.

In particular, “private visitors” are permitted “to maintain the family and social relationships of the prisoner in order to promote the prisoner’s re-integration into the community on release”.

But such visitors only are allowed into prison if a prisoner specifically asks for them to be allowed to do so, and if they then are approved in advance by the prison authorities. Without such approval, the only way they are getting access is if they’ve watched and learned from all five (five!) series of Prison Break.

And when might such approval be refused by prison authorities? Well, under the Corrections Regulations 2005:

“101 Denying approval of visitor or approving visitor subject to conditions or restrictions

(1) The chief executive, a contractor, or a prison manager (as the case may be) may decide not to approve a visitor … if—

(c) the chief executive, contractor, or prison manager (as the case may be) is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a visit by the visitor to the prisoner is likely to adversely affect … :

(i) the security, good order, or discipline of the prison …”

Now, it is true that I am not a “hot pastor” and don’t have direct access to the mysterious ways of the almighty, so there may be a bigger picture I’m missing. However, it seems to me that publicly telling the world a bunch of private visitors intend to “cause inmate revolts” is a very good way of giving prison authorities “reasonable grounds” to believe that such visits will be “likely to adversely affect … the security, good order, or discipline of the prison”. In which case, those visitors ain’t going to be getting into the prison.

Which may well mean that the net result of Brian Tamaki’s promise to force the government to pay to run his Man Up lifestyle project in prisons is that prisoners will be blocked from seeing any private visitors with connections to the Destiny Church. That seems a somewhat odd outcome from someone who, we know, simply wants to help.

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