COMMENT: Prisons have been in the news of late: we don't have enough room in them, they're not keeping up with demand, they're not secure enough, they're not fit to cope with an emergency and so on.
So it was with bemusement I read that in addressing our many and varied prison issues, we have inside a new maximum security wing at Auckland's Paremoremo prison, a sensory garden.
You heard that right. A New Zealand first. A sensory garden.
Oh you don't know what that is? Have you not been watching the House and Garden channel?
A sensory garden, for those of us scratching our heads, is a lot like it sounds. A garden... to tickle the senses.
I'm assuming our country's worst offenders must know this, given they've been blessed with one.
Either that or Corrections may need to put a sign up explaining it. 'No these are not weeds, this is your new sensory garden, please avail yourself of all the sensory experience that you can'.
This is all part of the $300 million redevelopment at Auckland Prison, which includes a new health unit.
A new health unit for daily health needs, OK, that's understandable.
Though I imagine a bitter pill to swallow for the victims of heinous crime whose assailants are getting treated for coughs and colds - while their own family members may not have had the same chance.
But a smattering of plants to provide texture, a sense of calm, and a feeling of peace? Hmmmmmm, that one's not washing so well with me.
Will our most violent criminals benefit from stopping to smell the spearmint?
Will running their fingers through the thyme evoke a sensation of peace for them?
Will they pause among the basil to reflect? I can only hope so.
How will the success of this NZ first be measured?
It won't be. I doubt we will hear any statistics on inmates who turned around a life of crime after fondling the rosemary or inhaling the dill, but I'm prepared to be amazed if it does.
I'd like to think that of the $300m, only a very small portion of it is going on the herbs and lavender.
I'd also like to think that the person who decided that a sensory garden was the best place for badly needed funds inside a prison to be spent actually had some pretty good reasons as to why.