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Annual report on Corrections: F for fail

Simon Power
National Party Law & Order Spokesman

20 October 2006

Annual report on Corrections: F for fail

The 17% increase in the daily cost of keeping a prisoner locked up over the past year is due in large part to the Corrections Department's $490 million prisons construction budget blowout, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

The Corrections annual report shows the cost of keeping each prisoner increased by nearly $30 to $189 a day.

"That is a staggering increase in one year and is largely thanks to the disgraceful construction budget blowout, caused by:

• Using an untested contracting methodology (CWA) that did not require a fixed price up front (e.g. the cost of earthworks at Spring Hill were $9 million before the contract was even signed).
• A former employee paid $1,764 a day on contract to manage the project.
• An $11 million landscaping bill.
• Under-floor heating and flat-screen TVs for prisoners.
• Site selection mistakes and rectifying design faults.

"This might well have been an 'annus horribilis' for CEO Barry Matthews, but for him to blame the media and 'political focus on the negative' is stretching things a little too far. Neither of those was responsible for:

• A huge increase in the amount of contraband – 1,047 cellphones compared with 252 in 2003.
• Lewd text messages sent by prisoners to members of the public.
• Rehabilitation programmes that actually increase offending.
• More prisoners offending while on community work schemes.
• Lawsuits from 33 prisoners claiming $8.6 million for 'mistreatment'.
• 43 personal grievance claims by staff totalling $641,000.
• Prisoners using guards' tearoom in the middle of the night.
• Guards passing votes of no confidence in management.
• A prostitute allegedly breaking into one prison.
• Trips to the beach for prisoners.
• Prisoners watching R-rated movies.
• Staff paid $2 million in bonuses.
• $31 million spent on consultants.
• Prisoners kept in vans and police cells because of overcrowding.
• $100,000 a month spent on flying prisoners on commercial flights.
• A decline in the number of prisoners on drug rehabilitation programmes.
• A decline in prison work.
• Prisoners alerting guards to breakouts via an 0800 number.
• Five times more methamphetamine in prisons.

"This has been an 'annus horribilis' for Corrections alright, but that is a direct result of a department being lead by an incompetent minister who has refused to take any sort of responsibility in Parliament for what is going on, preferring to hide behind an endless stream of reviews and inquiries.

“For the CEO to acknowledge such a poor year reflects very badly on the Minister.

"Damien O’Connor’s total lack of direction on policy has left the operational side floundering, and has confirmed what the public has been thinking – he is not up to the job.

"Corrections and the Minister deserve nothing better than an 'F' for fail."


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