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Alexander: Corrections being sued for $4.7m

Thursday, 18 November 2004

Alexander: Corrections being sued for $4.7m; deduct costs from any gain

In revealing that the Corrections Department is being sued for nearly $4.7 million by current and former prisoners, United Future's Marc Alexander today called for all prisoners to have a running bill for the cost of their imprisonment that is only activated if they should receive some financial advantage from their time in jail.

"The vast majority of prisoners will never pay for the cost to the taxpayer of their imprisonment, but those who gain by way of compensation should then have that held against the cost of their imprisonment," he said.

"It is a simple matter of justice. If they are compensated for a wrong perpetrated upon them, then at the at point, they can pay the cost that the remedying of their criminal act has put upon society."

Mr Alexander, United Future's law and order spokesman, has obtained figures revealing that current and former prisoners are in the process of suing Corrections for a total of $4,677,000 - "and this does not include Taunoa & Ors v The Attorney-General that was recently decided in the High Court, but which Corrections is now appealing."

"Although the total figure comprises only six claims, they represent a total of 76 complainants, and the complaints include alleged breaches of human rights, privacy, unlawful detention and assault.

"The sheer scale of these claims indicates a systemic problem in our prisons that could end up costing taxpayers dearly.

"In many respects, compensation is the smallest part of the cost to the taxpayer. It is much worse than that.

"We shouldn't forget that it's not just compensation. Although the most recent case cost the Government $130,000 in compensation, that figure was dwarfed by the $635,914 in legal costs to defend, $358,000 to the claimants to cover legal costs, and $353,000 to cover the administrative cost of hearing the case - a total of almost $1.5 million.

"Multiply $4,677,000 by a similar ratio of additional costs and you are getting into some really scary numbers."

"I have said all along that any government proposal to stop compensation payments to prisoners must also seriously address the internal complaints process within prisons, to head off more court cases like this."


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