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Privatising prisons: Nats ignore risks, real cost

October 28, 2008
For Immediate Use

National ignore the risks and real cost of privatising prisons

“National’s policy of privatising the management of prisons ignores the hidden cost of privatising prisons, the need for private companies to make a profit,” says Public Service Association National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“This means companies running prisons look for ways of cutting costs at the expense of the service they provide, which has happened with privatised prisons overseas,” says Richard Wagstaff.

In 1999, an American company called Wackenhut was stripped of contracts to run prisons in Texas and Louisiana. As well as mistreatment of prisoners the company was accused of trying to maximise profits at the expense of drug rehabilitation, counseling and literacy programs.

In 2000, a subsidiary of Wackenhut - Australian Correctional Management Service Ltd - was contracted to run the Auckland Central Remand Prison.

“National’s policy to have private companies once again tendering to run prisons makes no mention of how this American company sought to maximise its profits by cutting its rehabilitation services to its prisoners,’’ says Richard Wagstaff.

“John Key also fails to mention that a National-led government gave a subsidiary of this American company the contract to run the Auckland Remand Prison.”

National also does not explain that this subsidiary of Wackenhut was able to run Auckland Remand Prison at a lower cost than other prisons, run by the Corrections Department, because remand prisoners are cheaper to supervise than sentenced prisoners.

“Remand prisoners are in custody awaiting trial so they don’t require the same rehabilitation programmes as sentenced inmates and are also far less likely to attempt an escape, says Richard Wagstaff.

National also fails to mention a move away from private prisons in Britain where companies have lost contracts to run four prisons. In one case, Ashfield Youth Prison, the government feared the company was losing control of the prison.

“National continues to call for privatisation of prisons despite the clear evidence from overseas of the costs and risks involved in this policy,” says Richard Wagstaff

“It claims opposition to its privatisation agenda is ideological, when in fact its being ideological by ignoring all the evidence against privatising prisons,” says Richard Wagstaff.


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