June 11, 2010

Struth! Holiday in a Box


IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in this world, David Ellis warns: don't tell Mr Rudd, but New Zealand has found a cheap and easy way of detaining a record number of prisoners it can't fit into its over-crowded gaols.

Its building inexpensive, transportable prisons out of old shipping containers.

And while civil libertarians are aghast, NZ prison authorities point out that tens of thousands of the 12m by 2.4m containers are already being used around the world for everything from houses and holiday homes in the South Pacific and Hawaii, to offices, shops and even restaurants in Europe, the United States, China and, yes, Australia.

And more-imaginative owners and architects have even piled then several rows high in Europe to make elaborately shaped blocks of "flats" in cities, or square and more simple shapes in remote mining, logging and other regional areas.

New Zealand's Corrections Minister, Judith Collins says the old containers can be moved around the country as needed, with each container having three cells that each accommodates two prisoners.

"If they can be made into nice homes that are warm in winter and cool in summer, they can obviously be made into very good prison cells," she says, noting that they are strong, weatherproof and even salt-water proof.

And while civil libertarians liken them to "inhumanely putting people into tin cans," Ms Collins had the last word.

"Prisons are not holiday camps. Crime is voluntary, and if people want to commit crime, then there is going to be a response, And that response may very well be prison."

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