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Private prisons overseas – a failed experiment

Hon Matt Robson
Minister of Corrections, for Courts
Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

News release

Private prisons overseas – a failed experiment

17th January 20 Immediate release

“There has been an experiment overseas - driven by ideology - to introduce private prisons and it hasn’t worked, Minister of Corrections Matt Robson says.

“The ideology-driven belief that just because its private its better is not suited to our prisons, and this government won’t let New Zealanders become guinea pigs for an experiment here.

“Every good news story about a private prison has its bad news counter-part.
In too many cases running prisons for profits overseas has meant an increase in prison violence, re-offending, and cuts in wages for staff.

Corrections USA, a coalition of prison officers compiled statistics recently, comparing private prisons with public prisons.

These show a worse staff to inmate ratio, a staff turnover rate 26% higher and an assault rate ten times higher in prisons for profit.

The group has also collated newspaper reports which shows scores of improper incidents at private prisons; more than 20 escapes, half a dozen murders, three riots, at least 16 stabbings, dozen of assaults and drug incidents, at least 20 sexual assaults and one bomb.

“Private prisons are rather like hotels, but with a guaranteed occupancy, and you get to discipline the guests if they behave badly. There is no incentive to re-habilitate inmates and return them one day as safe members of the community.

“On the contrary, increased numbers in prisons benefit private companies, and high re-offending rates are good for business.

“The Group 4 Securitas run private prison in Port Phillip Prison in Melbourne has also been plagued with scandal since it opened in 1998.

“Within the first few months seven inmates had died and at least another ten had attempted suicide, and there were more than 100 self-harm incidents. Prison management was clearly falling apart. Under-staffing and inadequate training by Group 4 were targeted as the reasons.

“Also the troubled private prison at Youngstown Ohio run by America’s biggest private company, Corrections Corporation of US, has been plagued by increases in violence, prisons escapes and inmate deaths.

“Nick Smith is correct when he points out that the present public prison system, through no fault of its own, is failing the community. The legacy his government has left behind, particularly in the area of re-offending rates, is dismal. But the solution is not private: its resourcing our New Zealand system to do its job properly.

“At the end of the day we don’t want prisons to be a growth industry. We want the need for prisons in decrease, by putting resources into crime prevention,” says Matt Robson.


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