Releasing hunger strike prisoner Frances Shaw sets 'dangerous precedent' - National MP Mark Mitchell

Releasing an inmate who went on a 25-day hunger strike as a political protest sets a "dangerous precedent" for New Zealand's Corrections system, says National Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell.

Emaciated Frances Shaw walked free from Upper Hutt's Rimutaka Prison last week after campaigning for a Māori Parliament by refusing food and liquids. 

Shaw has had a long-running battle with the state and has spent the past four decades in and out of jail with an extensive criminal record.

Appearing on Māori TV's Te Ao with Moana, Shaw said he was "pissed off" that he had been "booted out of jail" after being on remand for charges related to cannabis cultivation.

"All my crimes have been decent crimes... nothing devious about them. For us and where we're from, we judge crime like this: if you've done a burglary, stole a car, shot somebody, stabbed somebody... any of these things, they're all decent," Shaw told the outlet.

"What's not, is like pedophiles and things like that. I was a little bit pissed off that I'm booted out of jail. I don't think they wanted a dead Māori in their jail... not one dying of starvation."

Shaw implied that the cause needs a martyr.

"I'm not going to be accountable to the thieving, parasitic, racist, capitalist, criminal justice system."

Mitchell told The AM Show on Tuesday releasing Shaw sets "a very dangerous precedent". 

"Corrections could have managed him medically inside prison. What they've done is buckled, and released him back into the community." 

"It's sent a very poor message to anyone in our Corrections system that if they decide to embark on some type of hunger strike, they're going to get a free pass out of prison."

Justice Minister Andrew Little "trivialising" an indecent assault on a female Corrections' officer and Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis declaring gang members as the "real victims" at the Justice Summit illustrate Labour's "soft on crime" stance, Mitchell said, leading to increased gang activity and more violent crime.

"I was down in Taradale a few weeks ago. They had open gang warfare, midday. You had the policemen sitting on the stage with gang members at the front of the hall with cameras taking photos of the community," Mitchell claimed, referencing the gang-related shooting in the Napier suburb last month. 

"These guys are so soft on crime that they've created a permissive environment where we're seeing an extreme rise in gang members, more violent crime on the streets and Frances Shaw back in the community.

"We're one step away from a tragedy because we've got a soft on crime Government."

Mitchell said it is currently unclear how the decision to release Shaw was determined, but said it would be wrong if Shaw's Māori heritage played a part.

"I don't buy into that. We have a criminal justice system that applies to everyone. He's been saying, 'that doesn't apply to me - and by the way, I do good offending like stabbing people and growing drugs'... It's complete nonsense," Mitchell said.

"Most Kiwis would accept we have one of the best and fairest criminal justice systems in the world... they're not going to buy into the argument that we've got to have two justice systems running parallel to each other."

Labour Party Deputy Leader and Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis was unable to appear on The AM Show, his press secretary releasing a statement saying "the management of [Frances Shaw] was an operational matter" and the Minister would have little to comment. 

In a statement, Rimutaka Prison staff said: "I know this has been incredibly difficult for the man, his whanau and our health and custodial staff. My site takes the duty of their care seriously. I'd like to acknowledge the family for their compassion and professionalism on this matter."

Corrections said it takes "the safety and wellbeing of those they manage seriously".

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