Convicted rapist deemed too obese for Kaikōura prison

Morning Talk 01/08/2018

A prison is unable to treat an overweight convicted rapist, causing some taxpayers to question whether his hospital care is a fair sentence. 

Marcus Shane Solomon, the son of Whale Watch founder Bill Solomon, was charged with 10 counts of sexual violation, rape and kidnapping in Kaikōura during the 1980s and 1990s. Last week, he was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison.

But after being found guilty, the overweight man's health began deteriorating – landing him at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch.

It's not as though he's free to skip off and go do what he likes.

Because the prison hospital didn't have the resources to treat the overweight inmate, Judge Zohrab jailed him to hospital to receive treatment to lose weight. But the high cost of keeping him in hospital has rubbed some people the wrong way.

While it costs $300 a day to keep an inmate in prison, the average daily expense at Burwood Hospital is $1250, according to a Canterbury District Health Board spokesperson.

And that’s before the cost of specialist doctor care or nurses to take care of the patient.

Justice Minister Andrew Little told RadioLIVE that cases like this are "difficult" to deal with. Solomon has committed serious offences, so the man should be punished. But if his obesity is so bad that the prison system can't accommodate him, he has to go somewhere else, Mr Little told RadioLIVE’s Mark Sainsbury.

"It's not as though he's free to skip off and go do what he likes. Obviously his health means that he's incredible limited," Mr Little said, adding that he understands people are angry that Solomon isn't serving time the same way other criminals have.

But Mr Little said he doesn't know what the solution is other than what's happening at the moment.

The Justice Minister also explained that the justice system hopes to “turn people around” while they’re in prison. By addressing Solomon’s health issues, whether it’s caused by diet or other underlying issues, Mr Little says the system is effectively helping the community at large in his rehabilitation.

National Party Corrections spokesman David Bennett told RadioLIVE that Solomon "is obviously a serious criminal and he needs to be serving his time." He said there is justification for making him lose weight so he can be put in prison.

“There’s got to be some requirements on him. He can’t just use his weight to avoid going to prison,” Mr Bennett said.

Mr Bennett said it's the job of corrections to find a solution, but recommends there be a requirement that Solomon has to meet within a certain amount of time so that he knows he has to lose weight to return to prison. 

Listen to the full interviews with Andrew Little and David Bennett above.

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