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Jail contract makes mockery of Govt position

Alexander: Jail contract makes mockery of Govt position

United Future's Marc Alexander today challenged the Government to justify its ongoing opposition to a private remand prison while prisoners can now take up $500,000 construction contracts to build upmarket Auckland apartment complexes.

"And they won't be able to defend it, because their whole approach to the Auckland Central Remand Prison has been based on the indefensible; it has been based on flawed ideology, and now on downright inconsistency.

"If we can have prisoners and prisons winning commercial contracts in the marketplace, how on earth can the Government continue its opposition to a privately run remand prison that completely out-performs its State equivalents?" Mr Alexander, deputy chairman of the law and order select committee, asked.

"The construction contract is a great idea. I am glad to see the Corrections Department looking at practical ways of turning a dollar rather than just spending it, and building skills among prisoners - and as long as such contracts are not under-cutting other operators, then more power to them.

"However, in terms of the remand prison, the facts are simple: the only privately run prison in the country is better than most of the public prisons. It is the only one to have achieved an international quality accreditation and it saves the money of taxpayers, some of whom are crime victims.

"It provides more efficient staffing levels while maintaining quality care of inmates, and it costs the taxpayer just $43,000 per inmate per year, as against $72,000 for a comparable remand facility.

"This country spends $51 million a year on remand services, and yet that privately run prison gets just $11 million of that total, while housing more than 40 percent of the country's remand prisoners.

"The Government has to get over this namby-pamby 'society must do it' thing. Standards and costs are the measuring stick, not who holds the key that turns the lock at night."

"I don't think the average prisoner is as concerned about who locks them up as are hand-wringing liberals."

Ends.

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