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.


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