National proposes privatisation of prisons

Published: Sun 3 Aug 2008 06:52 PM
National proposes privatisation of prisons
A single line in Simon Power’s speech to the National Party conference, not included in his press statement, reveals National’s plans to privatise New Zealand’s prisons, Corrections Minister Phil Goff says.
“The nature of National’s policy announcement buried in Mr Power’s speech indicates either a lack of confidence in the policy or an unwillingness to alert the public about its privatisations plans,” Phil Goff said.
“The sentence states: ‘we will allow tendering for the management of prisons by non-government providers’.
“This is a purely ideological policy not sustained by evidence that private prisons, either internationally or in the brief experience with Auckland Central Remand Prison, provide lower costs or better management than a publicly-run prison service.
“Indeed, there have been plenty of examples internationally of private prisons failing to provide acceptable outcomes including recent media reports on a catalogue of failings at the privately run Rye Hill jail in Britain’s Midlands.
“Private management of the Auckland Central Remand Prison resulted in a higher operating budget for remand prisoners of $42,000 per annum when compared with the public sector costs of $36,000 per annum.
“As a matter of principle Labour believes that imprisonment involving deprivation of individuals’ freedom for criminal acts is a core public sector function, not one for a commercial, profit-driven private company,” Phil Goff said.
“National, when last in office ran down and under-funded the prison sector with appalling results in prison security and drug use within prisons.
“Since 1999, the rate of prison escapes has fallen by 84 per cent on a per annum basis to around 20 a year, which compares well with international experience.
“Drug use in prisons since the 1990s, shown by positive drug tests, has fallen by nearly two-thirds. Prison employment has increased dramatically and programmes aimed at drug and alcohol addiction as a cause of criminal offending have been greatly increased.
“These trends show what can be achieved through a properly managed public sector correctional system. National’s track record by comparison was to run down the public sector and promote privatisation, which its policy indicates is also clearly its future intention,” Mr Goff said.

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