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Privatisation

Media Release - Private prison Serco takeover: Royal Commission call

Media Release 30th June 2017
Private prison Serco takeover: Royal Commission call
“Convenor of the Reintegration Puzzle Conference, Professor Joe Graffam, called security to try to forcibly eject me after I politely questioned the presence of Serco at the conference. He also demanded that I delete any record of their presentation from my phone,” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.
 
At the Conference former NSW Inspector of Custodial Services John Paget said the “$3.8 billion expansion of the New South Wales prison estate by 7000 beds represents a manifest and very expensive failure of public policy” and “NSW government’s lack of commitment to evidence-based criminal justice policy”.
 
We agree and accuse the government of corruption. We call for a new Royal Commission into Prisons.
 
Prisons Minister David Elliott, former Australian Hotels Association CEO, is building an empire with his business friends whilst trying to avoid responsibility for his failures. The 2017 Report on Government Services shows that NSW has the highest rate of return to prison of any state at 50.7%, least time out of cells, highest incidence of prisoner-prisoner assaults, greatest level of overcrowding and the least money spent per prisoner per day. Prisoners constantly describe to us their despair trying to improve themselves, but the Minister has declined to ever meet us to help find solutions as he says his diary is too busy.
 
Touted as a conference learning from ex-prisoners about how systems affect reoffending, it pointedly didn’t mention the private prison companies as delegates, or that its major partner the Community Restorative Centre (CRC) is working with Serco in the private prison intended for Grafton.
 
A major new industry causing social damage, is being built under our noses using rapacious NGO’s and unprincipled academics as their cloak of respectability” said Mr Collins. CRC has an annual budget of over $7m, 58 staff for prisoner welfare, and control of Justice Health through its CEO, but prisoners have no say, and have never been so badly treated. The NDIS principle of choice for vulnerable populations is starkly absent from this new market.
 
Serco has a long history of abuse of power, bad management, and financial non-compliance. Its entry into NSW shows the poor intentions of the government.
 
GEO, the current private prison operator in NSW was the subject of scathing criticism by the Coroner during a recent inquest into a death at Junee. She said, “Mr Howlett’s last weeks were full of despair and dissatisfaction”… “he was suffering greatly in the lead up to his death”… “The evidence established that Mr Howlett’s last days were unnecessarily uncomfortable.” The Coroner continued, “There had been no real recognition of the urgent need to screen his palliative care requirements” His physical ailments were “inadequately controlled” and he was “without adequate mental health support”…“The GEO group did not support any of the recommendations and appeared to express the view that each was largely unnecessary” said the Coroner. The Minister rejected the criticism when asked to change health service providers to public health.
 
Prisoners are against privatisation for many reasons. It removes the personal relationship with the state although the state has taken total control of their lives. It dehumanises them to be sold as slaves to the lowest bidder, to be an object of profit controlled by multinationals who have the greed, not the goodwill motive. Recidivism and fear of crime add to the company’s profit. Internationally, on all counts, privatisation has been rejected as a failure.
 
We accuse the government of corruption. The prison system’s obvious failure needs a public and accountable reset. Only a Royal Commission can do that job. We call for a moratorium on any building until there is community agreement on the direction for the future.

The Failure of Private Prisons in the US - August 2016

The Failure of Private Prisons in the US

The Obama Administration recently announced plans to end the federal government’s use of private prisons after an inquiry found they were drastically less safe than publically run facilities.

The Obama Administration has announced it will end the federal government’s use of private prisons. This landmark decision was made after the Office of the Inspector General (U.S Department of Justice) released a report detailing the substantial shortcomings in security and safety of the privately run prisons.

On August 1, 2016, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons that as each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the Bureau should either decline to review the contract or substantially reduce its scope.1 The Deputy Attorney General stated this represented the first step towards reducing, and, ultimately ending the use of privately operated prisons at the federal level.

In 1997, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) began contracting with privately operated institutions to manage the rising federal prison population. The main reported objectives were to reduce overcrowding, acquire additional beds speedily increase operational flexibility and to make savings in operational and construction costs.2 The inmates to be housed in the contract prisons were primarily low risk inmates convicted of immigration offences.3

There are currently 14 private prisons contracted by the federal government in the US, run by three organizations: GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of American (CCA), and Management and Training Corporation. The contracted prisons house approximately 12 per cent of the total prison population (22,660 inmates), at an annual cost of $639 million. By 2013, federal prisoners in private facilities reached their peak, and as of December 2015, federal prisons were operating at 20% over its capacity.4

Several high-profile incidents which highlighted safety and security concerns in privately operated prisons have been credited for the review, including cases of arson at Willacy County Correctional Centre in February 2015, and the death of a Correctional Officer at Adams County Correctional Centre in May 2012.

The Office of the Inspector General’s report found that private prisons had significantly more safety and security incidents than comparable public prisons. Data was analysed in eight key categories: contraband, reports of incidents, lockdowns, inmate discipline, telephone monitoring, selected grievances, urinalysis drug testing, and sexual misconduct. With the exception of positive drug tests and sexual misconduct, the contract prisons had more incidents per capita than public institutions in all of the other categories.5

Site visits also revealed a number of shortcomings in the management and monitoring of contract prisons. Two of the three contract prisons visited were improperly housing new inmates in Special Housing Units (SHU), normally reserved for disciplinary or administrative segregation, until beds become available in the general population. These new inmates had not engaged in any of the behaviors cited in the American Correctional Association Standards that would justify being placed in such administrative or disciplinary segregation. During a site visit to one prison, it was found there was no full-time physician, as required by its approved staffing plan, for the 8-month period between December 2013 and August 2014. In addition, specific health service deficiencies were recorded including failing to provide prescribed antiviral therapy for inmates with hepatitis C, not following up with inmates with positive tuberculosis test results, missing preventive care evaluations and dental exams, and failing to provide some immunisations.

Additionally, the examination showed the BOP failed to provide a regular, substantive review or monitoring process to verify contract compliance. The absence of efficient monitoring and accountability mechanisms and its enforcement by the BOP significantly contributed to the failure of the contract prisons to provide a safe and secure environment for the inmates.

Proposed Privatisation in Australia

In March 2016 the NSW Government revealed that the state prison system will undergo major reform, starting with a competitive tender to private and public operators of John Morony Correctional Centre (JMCC) in Windsor.6 Minister for Corrections David Elliot stated that performance targets such as security, participation in rehabilitation and out of cell hours, will be developed to allow for comparisons between all prisons. Market testing for JMCC will be overseen by Professor Gary Sturgess, who holds the Australia and New Zealand School of Government Chair of Public Service Delivery and spent more than a decade as director of Serco Group,7 a private prison operator in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Whilst the prison reforms will provide at least 1,100 new beds to address overcrowding,8 Steve McMahon of the Public Service Association reported concerns that prison privatisation is simply a cost-cutting measure, lacks accountability and transparency, and will lead to dangerous situations inside jails.9

One of the three prison operators in the US, GEO Group, whose prisons were subject of the BOP’s investigation into contract prisons, is a current operator of five Australian Correctional Facilities.10

To read more about Obama's plan to end the federal government's use of private prisons, CLICK HERE.

For an international analysis of private prisons, CLICK HERE.

For further information on the privatisation of prisons, CLICK HERE.

Notes 

1. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, Phasing Out Our Use of Private Prisons (1 August 2016) The United States Department of Justice <https://www.justice.gov/opa/blog/phasing-out-our-use-private-prisons>; Sally Q Yates, Memorandum for the Acting Director Federal Bureau of Prisons (August 18 2016) U.S. Department of Justice <https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/886311/download>.
2. Douglas McDonald and Carl Patten, ‘Governments’ Management of Private Prisons’ (document No. 203968, Prepared for National Institute of Justice, Washington, September 15 2003) 4. 
3. Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons (August 2016) i.
4. Ibid ii.
5. Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons (August 2016) ii. 
6. David Elliott, ‘Prison Reform to Improve Community Safety’ (Media Release, 20 March 2016).
7. Francesca Wallace, ‘NSW prisons risk private sector takeover’ The Sydney Morning Herald (online), March 21 2016.
8. David Elliott, ‘Prison Reform to Improve Community Safety’ (Media Release, 20 March 2016).
9. Wallace, above n 7.
10. <http://www.geogroup.com.au/locations.html> 

The Failure of Private Prisons in the US - August 2016 (2)

The Failure of Private Prisons in the US

The Obama Administration recently announced plans to end the federal government’s use of private prisons after an inquiry found they were drastically less safe than publically run facilities.

The Obama Administration has announced it will end the federal government’s use of private prisons. This landmark decision was made after the Office of the Inspector General (U.S Department of Justice) released a report detailing the substantial shortcomings in security and safety of the privately run prisons.

On August 1, 2016, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons that as each private prison contract reaches the end of its term, the Bureau should either decline to review the contract or substantially reduce its scope.1 The Deputy Attorney General stated this represented the first step towards reducing, and, ultimately ending the use of privately operated prisons at the federal level.

In 1997, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) began contracting with privately operated institutions to manage the rising federal prison population. The main reported objectives were to reduce overcrowding, acquire additional beds speedily increase operational flexibility and to make savings in operational and construction costs.2 The inmates to be housed in the contract prisons were primarily low risk inmates convicted of immigration offences.3

There are currently 14 private prisons contracted by the federal government in the US, run by three organizations: GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of American (CCA), and Management and Training Corporation. The contracted prisons house approximately 12 per cent of the total prison population (22,660 inmates), at an annual cost of $639 million. By 2013, federal prisoners in private facilities reached their peak, and as of December 2015, federal prisons were operating at 20% over its capacity.4

Several high-profile incidents which highlighted safety and security concerns in privately operated prisons have been credited for the review, including cases of arson at Willacy County Correctional Centre in February 2015, and the death of a Correctional Officer at Adams County Correctional Centre in May 2012.

The Office of the Inspector General’s report found that private prisons had significantly more safety and security incidents than comparable public prisons. Data was analysed in eight key categories: contraband, reports of incidents, lockdowns, inmate discipline, telephone monitoring, selected grievances, urinalysis drug testing, and sexual misconduct. With the exception of positive drug tests and sexual misconduct, the contract prisons had more incidents per capita than public institutions in all of the other categories.5

Site visits also revealed a number of shortcomings in the management and monitoring of contract prisons. Two of the three contract prisons visited were improperly housing new inmates in Special Housing Units (SHU), normally reserved for disciplinary or administrative segregation, until beds become available in the general population. These new inmates had not engaged in any of the behaviors cited in the American Correctional Association Standards that would justify being placed in such administrative or disciplinary segregation. During a site visit to one prison, it was found there was no full-time physician, as required by its approved staffing plan, for the 8-month period between December 2013 and August 2014. In addition, specific health service deficiencies were recorded including failing to provide prescribed antiviral therapy for inmates with hepatitis C, not following up with inmates with positive tuberculosis test results, missing preventive care evaluations and dental exams, and failing to provide some immunisations.

Additionally, the examination showed the BOP failed to provide a regular, substantive review or monitoring process to verify contract compliance. The absence of efficient monitoring and accountability mechanisms and its enforcement by the BOP significantly contributed to the failure of the contract prisons to provide a safe and secure environment for the inmates.

Proposed Privatisation in Australia

In March 2016 the NSW Government revealed that the state prison system will undergo major reform, starting with a competitive tender to private and public operators of John Morony Correctional Centre (JMCC) in Windsor.6 Minister for Corrections David Elliot stated that performance targets such as security, participation in rehabilitation and out of cell hours, will be developed to allow for comparisons between all prisons. Market testing for JMCC will be overseen by Professor Gary Sturgess, who holds the Australia and New Zealand School of Government Chair of Public Service Delivery and spent more than a decade as director of Serco Group,7 a private prison operator in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Whilst the prison reforms will provide at least 1,100 new beds to address overcrowding,8 Steve McMahon of the Public Service Association reported concerns that prison privatisation is simply a cost-cutting measure, lacks accountability and transparency, and will lead to dangerous situations inside jails.9

One of the three prison operators in the US, GEO Group, whose prisons were subject of the BOP’s investigation into contract prisons, is a current operator of five Australian Correctional Facilities.10

To read more about Obama's plan to end the federal government's use of private prisons, CLICK HERE.

For an international analysis of private prisons, CLICK HERE.

For further information on the privatisation of prisons, CLICK HERE.

Notes 

1. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, Phasing Out Our Use of Private Prisons (1 August 2016) The United States Department of Justice <https://www.justice.gov/opa/blog/phasing-out-our-use-private-prisons>; Sally Q Yates, Memorandum for the Acting Director Federal Bureau of Prisons (August 18 2016) U.S. Department of Justice <https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/886311/download>.
2. Douglas McDonald and Carl Patten, ‘Governments’ Management of Private Prisons’ (document No. 203968, Prepared for National Institute of Justice, Washington, September 15 2003) 4. 
3. Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons (August 2016) i.
4. Ibid ii.
5. Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons (August 2016) ii. 
6. David Elliott, ‘Prison Reform to Improve Community Safety’ (Media Release, 20 March 2016).
7. Francesca Wallace, ‘NSW prisons risk private sector takeover’ The Sydney Morning Herald (online), March 21 2016.
8. David Elliott, ‘Prison Reform to Improve Community Safety’ (Media Release, 20 March 2016).
9. Wallace, above n 7.
10. <http://www.geogroup.com.au/locations.html> 

International Research Proves Prison Privatisation a Failure

 

The privatisation of prisons has been identified as providing a direct response to the crises of persistent inmate population growth and expanding costs. Many academics and governments around the world have studied the effect of this move, effectively concluding that despite the supposed financial gains, there are no benefits made to the welfare and rights of inmates in privatised prisons. It should be the aim of countries such as Australia to reconsider prison privatisation and redress fundamental failings of this approach through effective facilities and rehabilitation services. The following document serves to outline the impact of privatisation in both Australia and international prisons, with close reference to various reports.

The Sentencing Project 2013 Report

Cody Mason, 'International Growth Trends in Prison Privatisation' (2013) The Sentencing Project.

Colin Penter, 'The power of the corporate (private) prison industry' (2014) The Stringer Independent News.

The Sentencing Project is a U.S. not-for-profit criminal justice and advocacy organisation. In 2013, the organisation published a report titled “International Growth Trends in Prison Privatisation” which centered on the failures of privatisation in reforming and correcting ongoing issues. The report found the following:

-       Private prisons perform no better than publicly operated facilities;

-       They are not guaranteed to reduce correctional costs; and

-       They provide an incentive for increasing both correctional and detention populations

Despite the repeated failings of privatised prisons, many countries – including those facing serious problems in the capabilities and quality of their correctional systems – have followed the U.S. in adopting a flawed and shortsighted scheme. There are some countries however that have recognised this and put an end to any attempts to implement such a scheme. Such was seen in Israel, in 2009 when the nation’s Supreme Court found that the bid to open up a private prison would result in ‘harsh and grave damage to the basic human rights of prisoners…’

Of the 11 countries around the world that implement privatisation, many of them have issues with overcrowding, management of facilities and the rehabilitation of inmates. Thus a lack of provision for the very necessities needed in these prisons shows a blatant disregard for the care and management of those within them.

In conjunction with the aforementioned findings, the report found Australia as having the highest proportion of prisoners in privately run prisons in the world. The rate was seen to be at 19% in comparison to Scotland (17%), England (14%) and the US (7%). This number was inflated by the multitude of privately run prisons located in Victoria as well as by the growth of numbers of detained asylum seekers within these prisons. In April 2013, it was recorded that 8,797 individuals were held in Immigration Detention Facilities and Alternative Places of Detention, all of which were privately run. 

Penter (2014) also adds that privatised prisons are incentivised to reduce costs in important services such as medical care; compromising the welfare and security of prisoners. Privatised prisons have employed tactics to cut costs in an attempt to win contracts against publicly run prisons.

The graph below visually outlines the number of Australian prisoners held in private facilities in comparison to international figures, emphasizing the importance of this issue for Australia.

IMAGE Percent of Prisoners Held PrivatelyPrivatisation in the USA

Brad Lundahl, Chelsea Kunz, Cyndi Brownell, Norma Harris and Russ Van-Vleet, 'Prison Privatization: A Meta-Analysis of Cost Effectiveness and Quality of Confinement Indicators' (2007) Utah Criminal Justice Center, College of Social Work, University of Utah.

The United States was found to have the highest number of prisoners in privatised institutions. Due to economic hardship in many states, contracting management of prisons to private companies is seen as a financially attractive option. By 2001, the U.S. prison population had increased to over 2 million incarcerated individuals, with private facilities accounting for 6.8% of all prisoners.

An empirical analysis of privatised U.S. prisons conducted by Lundahl et al. (2007) concluded that:

-       When compared to public prisons, privatised institutions showed no clear advantages or disadvantages in quality of confinement or cost effectiveness

-       Tentatively, publicly managed prisons tended to provide better training programs and generated fewer complaints or grievances

Privatisation in the United Kingdom

José M Alonso and Rhys Andrews, ‘How Privatization affects Public Service Quality: An Empirical Analysis of Prisons in England and Wales’ (2015) International Public Management Journal.

The report finds significant failings with prison privatisation through contractual stipulations failures.

Within Europe there are several general models for private sector involvement in prisons, these include:

-       Public finance, design and construction with private management contracts for all services

-       Public finance and private construction, where the state employs the prison officers but all non-custodial services are contracted out

-       Private finance, design and construction in which the state employs the prison officers but non-custodial services are also contracted out

-       Private finance, design, construction and operation (preferred option, being exported by the UK)


The report data collected by Alonso and Andrews (2015) found that England and Wales contained the most privatised criminal justice systems in Europe. Since 1992, all new prisons in England and Wales have been privately designed, financed, built and organised. Furthermore, the analysis explains that privatisation appeared to be associated with an increase in prison conditions and activities but a decrease in prison order and safety.

Privatised prisons have strong profit-maximization incentives to limit overcrowding. But in 2012 and 2013, private prisons in the UK held an average of 29.3% of prisoners in overcrowded accommodation. This was in comparison to the public sector, which held 21.8%. Although there are financial benefits gained from privatisation, they should not outweigh the provision of adequate facilities and the welfare of prisoners.

Failures in meeting contractual stipulations for prison performance are common, and include the fact that:

-       Between 2003 and 2004, six privatised prisons failed to meet their target in preventing serious assaults on prisoners and staff

-       Serious assault rates in Parc private prison were three times higher than the normal rate 

-       Dovegate and Parc prisons fell below their assigned targets in providing an allocated number of hours spent doing purposeful activities; with Altcourse being the only private prison to reach this target

Privatisation in Victoria, Australia

Valarie Sands and Graeme Hodge, ‘The Victorian Government’s prison privatisation project (1992-2010): The pathway to cost efficiency? A longitudinal analysis’ (2014) 20 Contemporary Issues in Business and Government 1.

A longitudinal evaluation of Victoria’s partially privatised prison system over two decades (1992-2010) was published within the online journal ‘Contemporary Issues in Business and Economics’. The journal outlined numerous problems surrounding the long-term effects of privatisation. The main findings are outlined below:

-       By placing a focus on recurrent operational costs, issues such as effectiveness, prison accountability, prison conditions and service delivery are ignored; and

-       Competitive and privatised prison operations led to a significant decrease in average daily operational cost per prisoner (from an estimated $237 per day to $164-$183 per day), however this cost had relapsed to $241 per day by 2010

The report concluded that there was no overall long-term improvement in operational cost-efficiency.

Right Now Publication

John Alizzi, ‘Private Prisons in Australia: Our 20 Year Trial’ (2012).

Right Now is an Australian not-for-profit organisation focused on collecting and spreading information on human rights issues around Australia. In some of their work over the past years, Right Now has highlighted the threat that privatisation poses to inmates.

Their article ‘Private Prisons in Australia: Our 20 Year Trial’ highlighted the increasing problem of privatising prisons, as more gradually, it is seen as a cheaper and efficient system. Concerning Australia, the organisation reports that a move to privatise prisons would be a move to allow for the inhumane ‘containment and rehabilitation of prisoners.’

The article found the following:

-       A major issue with privatisation is accountability when considering the near immunity of privatised prisons such as GEO Group, Serco and G4S

-       The failure to meet obligations and duty of care can result in unfortunate events such as the death of Aboriginal Elder Mr Ward, who ‘died from heat stroke in the back of a G4S transport vehicle.’

-       Regardless of the ethical code behind privatised prisons, the very nature of them being private can result in failures in their systems; and

-       The cost-efficiency reason is increasingly playing a dominant role in the way that prisons are run, yet cutting costs can negatively impact the quality of the service provided.

The article further raises the question of whether private prisons are suited to manage all scenarios, when staff-training standards somewhat differ from public prisons (John Welsh, spokesman of WA Prison Officer’s Union).  According to Deputy Ombudsman John Taylor, privatisation is merely the means by which the government can reduce their responsibility by handing it to someone else.

The article concluded by stating that though privatisation holds appeal in its efficiency, flexibility and responsiveness, the reality is that success depends on the service itself.  Thought must be given to whether privatising prisons can hinder the actual purpose of prisons.

Further Reading:

 

ABC Stateline: Exposure of Prison Privatisation

Incarceration within American and Nordic Prisons: Comparison of National and International Policies

Nordic Prisons Reject Privatisation

Privatisation of Prisons: Analysis

Video: Prison Privatisation in the USA

Privatisation is Admission of Prison Failure

Media reports over the past weekend represent an alarming move by the NSW Government to reignite the push for greater privatisation of the state’s public correctional centres. In the face of a dramatic increase in prisoner numbers, Minister for Corrections, David Elliott, announced on Sunday that centres that failed to improve their performance would be put to tender for management by the private sector.1

Privatisation of prisons is inherently wrong as it infringes the fundamental rights provided by a democracy to its citizens. The relationship between a state and its citizens is a social contract wherein the individual, having elected to submit to the state, abides by laws created legitimately to ensure maintenance of social order and protection of the public interest. It is impossible for an individual to participate in the same contract with a private company that protects only its own interests. Subcontracting the relationship between the state and its citizens in this way, through prison privatisation, is thus tantamount to slavery. The rights and interests of prisoners would be at the mercy of a private company.

Further criticisms of privatisation have been outlined (link to Privatisation page). Private enterprises driven by profit are placed in a position of conflict if they are mandated to discourage reoffending. This is compounded by the fact that prisons are seen as a ‘growth industry’ by government and the private sector, making the push for privatisation purely about cashing in on public assets2 and maximising the taxpayer’s dollar, while relevantly removing the measures towards transparency and accountability available through public regulation.

The sub-standard operation of Mt Eden Correctional Centre in New Zealand by private contractor Serco is but one source of evidence that the first sacrifices made in pursuit of private interests are at the expense of the very inmates these centres operate to house. Deliberate understaffing of Mt Eden to maximise profit can be linked to organised fights amongst prisoners and prevalence of contraband inside the centre.3 In NSW, privatisation of Parklea Correctional Centre has also failed to solve the overcrowding problem, with the proliferation of instances of three inmates in two-man cells.4

This weekend’s events further solidify the argument that the push for privatisation signifies a refusal of our leaders to commit to improving the NSW prison system. Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin’s clarification that only prisons that do not meet performance targets would be vulnerable5 poses a dangerous dilemma in light of findings published by the Auditor-General earlier this month that such targets themselves are unclear to general management of prisons.

Concerns surrounding increases in inmate populations and rates of recidivism cannot be sufficiently ameliorated through a model of privatisation that ignores the human cost of outsourcing management of prisons. Failure to make change by seeking to contract the problem outside government – and thus extinguish liability for failures of imprisonment (link to FOI page) – is no less than grossly negligent. The ‘market test’ scheme proposed for John Morony Correctional Centre, if successful, will open the floodgates for privatisation of other state prisons, with the end result being a state prison system that is compromised.

[1] Bill Code, ‘Private prisons: NSW Government announces plans to let private operators tender for jail at Windsor’; ABC News Online, 21 March 2016
[2] Ibid.
[3] http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/279705/mt-eden-information-flow-inadequat
[4] Rachel Olding, ‘Prison population explosion could lead to two new jails per year’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2015 <http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/prison-population-explosion-could-lead-to-two-new-jails-per-year-20140515-zrdbs.html>
[5] Fairfax Media, ‘NSW prisons in line for privatisation’, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 March 2016

 

NSW Proposal for a Private Prison Model

Recent reports in the media demonstrate a concerning push for increased privatisation of prisons across NSW. According to Minister for Corrections, David Elliot, private and public sectors will bid to operate the John Morony Correctional Centre in an attempt to reform NSW prisons. Mr Elliot said that the shift towards privatisation would improve prison standards as it “accommodates more inmates, operates more efficiently and has a greater focus on rehabilitation.”

However,  prison privatisation will invariably lead to a tension between public and private interests. It follows that as the private sector is inherently driven by profits, private takeover could ignore prisoner welfare and undermine standards of care considering high recidivism rates are of little detriment to private corporations.

The ineffective operation of Mt Eden Correctional Centre in New Zealand by private contractor Serco demonstrates the failures of prison privatisation. Deliberate understaffing at Mt Eden to maximise profit can be linked to organised fights and prevalence of contraband inside the centre. In NSW, privatisation of Parklea Correctional Centre has also failed to solve overcrowding, as three inmates are accomodated in two-man cells.

The Public Service Association, the union representing prison offices, said the push for a private prison model was "another short-sighted cash grab" with “no accountability or transparency.”

Media Sources 
21st March 2016: NSW prisons risk private sector take over
20th March 2016: PSA denounces privatisation plans as a 'short sighted cash grab' that will open NSW prisons to Fight Clubs
20th March 2016: NSW government announces plans to let private operators tender for jail at Windsor
20th March 2016: Private prison operator Serco meets with Baird government

 

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