Nats to privatise prisons

Was it a slip-up by Simon Powers? In his press release he says, “And you can expect to hear more on sentencing and prisons in the next few months.” Nothing about privatising prisons.

But in his speech to the weekend conference he says quite clearly”

“We will allow tendering for the management of prisons by non-government providers.”

If it’s not a slip-up it seems a strange way to announce a major policy. Were they trying to slip it in under the radar?

As Phil Goff points out, it’s pure ideology. We know from experience in NZ and Britain that it’s not about saving money or improving management. Goff:

“Private management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison resulted in a higher operating budget for remand prisoners of $42,000 per annum when compared with the public sector costs of $36,000 per annum.”

In Britain, GSL (formerly Group 4) has shown the shortcomings of profit-driven detention. A 2005 BBC documentary Detention Undercover: The Real Story showed GSL staff at the Oakington Immigration Reception Centre shouting racial abuse and mistreating inmates. At Rye Hill prison one suicide-risk prisoner died from self-sustained injuries. “It emerged that nobody had entered the cell for 15 hours.” In 2006 GSL topped the table of complaints of misconduct from asylum seekers and their lawyers, with 30% of all complaints made.

Do we want this here? Yes, our prison “services” need serious attention, which is what star-performer Goff has been about. (I might note in passing that the rot seemed to set in when the Corrections Dept was run by a former Treasury official.) But the “quick fix” afforded by private sector management is more likely to make things worse, if you look at the evidence.

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4 Responses to “Nats to privatise prisons”

  1. AndrewE Says:

    In Britain, GSL (formerly Group 4) has shown the shortcomings of profit-driven detention. A 2005 BBC documentary Detention Undercover: The Real Story showed GSL staff at the Oakington Immigration Reception Centre shouting racial abuse and mistreating inmates.

    And I suppose this doesn’t happen in public prisons? Put down the Chardonnay!

  2. macdoctor01 Says:

    I note that Phil Goff uses very old data (those are 2000/01 figures for Auckland Remand). Are there no more recent figures? Corrections costs have risen sharply in the past few years (partly due to maintenance and building a new luxury prison). In 2007 it was over $76,000 per prisoner, per annum (Annual report 2007, page 39) That is an increase of 41% over the 2001 figure of $54,000 (including depreciation of buildings – p28). That is nearly twice the inflation rate.

    And they still don’t seem to be able to manage a simple transport protocol.

  3. *Ghost who walks Says:

    What is this fascination with privatising prison management all about? If use of the coercive powers of the state is not a core public sector function what is? Its bad enough that the crims have their own entrepreneurial rackets to get into the system and cost us a fortune, without compounding their predatory actvities by crony capitalism once they are locked up.
    Why on earth do we need a business rationale to increase market share of private sector prison operations? And on top of that do we really need a prime rationale even worse than the [not very] Sensible Sentencing Trust for “growing the market” in prison “clients”? I can see the lobbyists in Parliament for tougher prison sentences now, with commission payments for every year’s penalty added to each bit of legislation.

    I wonder how many of the neo-liberal eighties retreads from Treasury [Bill English perhaps?] who inhabit Wellington politics have scoured the bible to find some even more modern policies? Outsourcing of tax collection is another policy that could be considered? Oh no too late – the Mongrel mob already do that, but the money doesn’t come back to the empire!
    Maybe Halliburton or the other buzzards hanging around IRAQ may have time to come and siphon off a bit from our public coffers. I think they’re known as PPPS? Public Pillaging by Private Sycophants? But then the real rort lies in the exorbitant consultancy fees for producing the tenders and business plans to support these grand plans. Maybe that will be the saving grace, nothing will ever get done.

  4. sconehead Says:

    They’ve already been privatised. Just ask any member of the Mongrel Mob or Black Power.

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