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Private Prison by 2015 - Govt

For-Profit Prison by 2015 - Govt

A privately-run prison in South Auckland could be just five years away, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

Speaking at a joint press conference Wednesday, Collins and Infrastructure Minister Bill English announced plans to cut costs with a new privately-managed prison at Wiri in South Auckland by 2015.

The 1000-bed facility would be the first prison in New Zealand designed, built and operated under a public-private partnership.

Day-to-day operations - from staffing and facility maintenance to rehabilitation programmes - would be privately contracted, but Corrections’ Chief Executive would remain responsible for prisoners’ welfare and the Auditor-General would be free to investigate complaints.

English said he believed private management could save between 10 and 20 percent in running costs over 30 years, but stressed his figure had yet tot be tested.

If bids were no better than existing costs the Government would revert to public procurement, he said.

The tender would also be an opportunity for improving prison services, he said.

“It actually gives the Government a bit of a policy challenge – to focus on the outcomes it wants, not just getting the building up.”

Collins said the partnership was about getting the best use out of taxpayer dollars, with another 2270 beds needed by 2019.

The Minister said she had seen positive changes in Australia and the United States under private management, including longer unlock hours and private sector rehabilitation programmes.

“The fact is, sometimes the private sector can be more efficient,” she said.

But the unions that represent prison staff have opposed the proposal, with the Public Service and Corrections Associations saying it would expose their members to lower pay rates and unsafe working conditions.

Collins could not rule out double-bunking, higher prisoner-to-guard ratios or lower pay rates for staff in the new prison.

She said she expected bids to include Maori representation or provision of services and the Government “might look” at recidivism rates as part of the contract.

But any contract would be subject to a lot of negotiations, she said.

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