The Sensible Sentencing Trust has a problem with the name Kohuora?

There’s a new prison set to open in May 2015. It will be called Auckland South Correctional Facility, but it will also be known as Kohuora. The name Kohuora makes sense – it’s the name of a volcanic crater nearby the prison, and the English translation of the name is “coming out of the mist into the new world of the living”.

In recent years, there’s been a focus on rehabilitation in our prisons. Both National and Labour have recognised that successful rehabilitation programmes reduce reoffending rates. You’d therefore think that “coming out of the mist into the new world of the living” encapsulates quite well the concept that we want those we’ve incarcerated to come out of prison and live new, changed, positive lives.

Not according to the Sensible Sentencing Trust, who have described the name as “political correctness gone mad”. Says the Trust’s spokeswoman Ruth Money:

“We would like inmates to be reminded they are serving their sentences in a prison, not some kind of spiritual retreat.”

And this from Brian Brown, whose daughter Natasha Hayden was murdered in 2005 by Michael Curran:

“So, when someone asks a criminal ‘where have you been bro?’ they can say “I have been spending a few months at Kohuora, bro,” which sounds a lot better than ‘I have been in prison the last few months, bro’. It is disgusting.”

As much as I may sympathise with Mr Brown for his loss all those years ago, I have to shake my head at him and the SST. As I tap away at my keyboard here in Gisborne, the nearest prison is just out of Hastings. It’s formal name is Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison, which is quite a mouthful, so everyone in the Hawke’s Bay and greater East Coast knows it as Mangaroa. It’s on Mangaroa Road, and it apparently used to be officially called Mangaroa; the newer name hasn’t really caught on. The English translation – “long stream” – isn’t nearly as pretty as “coming out of the mist into the new world of the living”, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that when my clients tell anyone they’ve been in Mangaroa, everyone knows what they mean.

The simple fact is, all prisons have names – Mt Eden, Paremoremo, Rangipo. Does Mr Brown have an issue with criminals saying “I’ve been in Paremoremo”, rather than “I’ve been in prison”? Kohuora Prison is a name that is regionally appropriate, and it just so happens to have a rather nice translation.

Does the SST really have nothing better to do with its time than critique the naming of our prisons? Evidently not…

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