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Termination of private prison questioned

Termination of private prison questioned

The justification for terminating the management contract for New Zealand's only privately managed prison doesn't stand up to reason, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

Last minute clauses inserted in the Corrections Bill tabled in Parliament in March put the management contract for Auckland's Central Remand prison on death row.

The Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says the beliefs for the move given by Attorney General Margaret Wilson were that only the state should be permitted the use of highly coercive powers against individuals, and there was no room for profit

from the running of prisons.

"Such views do not stand up to reason," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive. "We see absolutely no reason for Minister Margaret Wilson to nationalise the prison.

"The State's direct employment of its own prison service is resulting in lower humane standards than those provided on behalf of the state by the Auckland Central Remand facility. As for cost, what matters is who can do the best job for the lowest cost to the taxpayers.

"New Zealand's only privately managed prison has delivered the highest standards of any of our prisons.

"Not only has it recorded the lowest incident rate of any of our prisons, it has consistently performed well above all our other prisons as measured against a range of quality benchmarks. An inspection of the Annual Report of the Department of Corrections last year demonstrates this.

"Though some of the most serious offenders are incarcerated for periods up to a year, no serious assaults on any of staff have been recorded.

"From 2005 the Corrections Bill explicitly prohibits anyone operating a prison other than the Crown. (Clause 185 and 186) and states no management contracts can be extended (Cl. 194).

"The Minister should at least visit the facility to see how a best practice prison looks and operates - she has never done this.

"The prison achieves the lowest cost per inmate in New Zealand by a wide margin. The average for all our prisons is about $70,000 per annum per inmate whereas the Auckland Central Remand Prison costs are under $45,000 per inmate.

"The 300 inmate facility sets the benchmark for other similar services in New Zealand and it should be kept under private management for this purpose if for no other.

"Other achievements the prison has chalked up include:

* the only prison in New Zealand to be accredited with the International Quality Standard ISO 9001,

* the first to appoint a Maori, Dom Karauria as General Manager

* the first to locate a whare hui (meeting house) in the prison

* the only prison with a fulltime psychologist on the staff

* the only prison with a drug dog handler permanently on site

* registered nurses on site 24x7, with a doctor on call.

"Some 150 staff employed at the prison are affected."

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