Disregard for one moment the messenger and consider the message: Accepting that self-preservation is nature’s first law, what would have changed in the last eight years that would have made the prisoners respond in the way they did some three days ago and, equally important, having seen the consequences of that response, why would the response be repeated the next day knowing that the assumed risk is fatal.
Let us establish some truths before we proceed: one, though overcrowded and not unlike almost all prisons in the world, the prison population has not increased it has decreased; two, the sections of the prison where the riots took place called capital A and capital B, were particularly not overcrowded; three, the time on remand awaiting trial has not increased it has decreased; the prison conditions and diet etc have not got any worse if anything it has got better.
So what would have changed? The contention advanced herein is “psychological”. If one of the first acts you do as a new leader of a nation, de facto or otherwise, even before the inauguration ceremony, even before you name and appoint your members of Parliament, even before you appoint your Attorney General, even before you outline your plan for a nation, even before you present a budget to the nation, is you announce to that nation that you will pardon convicted criminals you create a reasonable expectation in the minds of the prisoners that they ought to be pardoned or at least be considered to be pardoned as well. In addition, the immediate prioritisation of this presidential pardoning act imbues the perception of being soft on crime and soft on criminals. This reasonable expectation is amplified by two factors: one, some of those prisoners may have supported that leader (at the very least in spirit) so they perceive the leader as being “their guy” and two, a second act of pardoning occurs some six months later.
Essentially, there is a psychological break in the minds of the prisoners and they feel emboldened to respond in a way which would grab the leader or rather “their leader’s” attention and in a democracy protest and riots are the most effective way to grab the attention of the government.
How has the government responded? The actions of the prisoners were baptised by the government’s commitment to improve conditions and treatment and the families of the prisoners will be compensated. Unless cosying-up to prisoners and their families is part of the plan of this government this is yet another precipitous decision which will only crystallise that reasonable expectation.
Ramson Esq MP