Opinion: PAPA Needs Refocus

From Craig Young, 23 December 2018

People Against Prisons Aotearoa fulfils a valuable function within criminal justice debates and has done excellent work insofar as correctional facilities accountability and risk to transgender inmates in the past. But is Pride muddying the vital issues that PAPA addresses?

The Pride debate is about two strands of LGBT politics. On the one hand, we have LGBT police and corrections officers, who want to march within the parade as a symbol of institutional reform and accountability, as well as an acknowledgement of change and transformation over time. On the other, we have PAPA and their Maori, Pasifika and antiracist pakeha/palagi supporters, who view police and correctional institutions as part of the pakeha colonialist repressive state apparatus that specifically targets marginal Maori and Pasifika youth. The issues involved are ones of what scope and content 'equality.' 'accountability' and 'representation' should occupy.

Personally, I think it unfortunate that PAPA has been seen as 'targeting' specific LGBT individuals within police and corrections when their actual objection is against  an institution that is seen as a primary source of racist oppression and incarceration within their tino rangatiratanga/Maori-centred worldview. They argue that it is ironic that given pre-decriminalisation repression of pakeha gay men and anti-racist pakeha lesbians during the eighties and early nineties, that LGBT communities now 'celebrate' that arguable institution of repression and domination. 

There are many other areas of criminal justice policy that PAPA could deal with that do not betray their kaupapa than annual Pride confrontations. Politics do have a place in Pride.  It'd be great if both the New Zealand Police and PAPA could march within Pride, with PAPA's focus on eradicating sexual violence within correctional institutions, whether there are any white supremacist inmates networks akin to those in other jurisdictions, the absence of rehabilitation resources, skills training and stable housing for (trans and cis) female inmates, unionisation of released former female inmates, networking with other prison retrenchment and abolitionist critics of the current criminal justice system and so on. It is unproductive to label PAPA as 'radical' as if that were dismissal of its legitimate current and potential objectives. PAPA has a place within our complex and diversifying New Zealand/Aotearoa LGBT/whakawahine/fa'afafine/faikaleite communities. So do the New Zealand Police and corrections workers, however. PAPA may not like that, but as someone who supports their greater kaupapa of prison critique, abolition and accountability, I would urge them to refocus their attention on vital issues that benefit their vulnerable core focus of activity like the ones I've described above.


PAPA: www.papa.org.nz