Private prison opposers launch vocal protest
Opposition MPs supported a small but vocal protest today outside Parliament, with the Public Service (PSA) and Corrections associations warning of backlashes if the Government privatises prisons.A bill allowing the privatisation of prisons was passed und
Opposition MPs supported a small but vocal protest today outside Parliament, with the Public Service (PSA) and Corrections associations warning of backlashes if the Government privatises prisons.
A bill allowing the privatisation of prisons was passed under urgency in November and Corrections Minister Judith Collins has earmarked Auckland's Mt Eden Prison and one being built at Wiri in south Auckland as the first two.
PSA assistant national secretary Jeff Osborne, Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon and opposition MPs told a small crowd of people wearing Judith Collins masks that private prisons were more expensive to the taxpayer and led to reduced service as costs were gradually cut to increase profits.
Mr Osborne said figures from the Corrections Department showed operating costs for the Australian company that managed Auckland Remand Prison from 2000 to 2005 were $43,000 per inmate -- $7000 more than the Corrections Department costs per remand prisoner.
Mr Hanlon said if Mt Eden was privatised 450 jobs would be put on the line, and most of those lucky enough to apply for and retain work in a private capacity would have their wages significantly reduced.
He said Corrections was not allowed to contract for the running of prisons in a private capacity and any profits would go to offshore companies.
Labour Party corrections spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said running prisons was a core state responsibility and transferring that to the private sector was a "cop-out", not cost effective and a slap in the face for prison officers who did one of the toughest jobs in the country.
A big concern was that the accountability faced by the public sector in the management of prisons would disappear under a private agreement.
The Corrections Association has had a strained relationship with Ms Collins since National came into power in 2008 and Mr Hanlon said part of that was because of a lack of honesty from ministry heads about plans for prisons.
He said the association was prepared to listen when the Government talked about only applying privatisation to prisons yet to be built, but the proposal to privatise the revamped Mt Eden prison was a broken promise by Ms Collins.
© All content copyright NBR. Do not reproduce in any form without permission, even if you have a paid subscription.