Privatisation Proven Ineffective in New Zealand
New Zealand's attempts to privatise prisons are a prime example of the inherent failings of this model, despite political interest. The public exposure of these failings became so apparent that NZ's own Labour Party agreed to return one of the country's major prisons to public hands upon their election in 2005. This was a move reversed by the re-election of the National Party in 2008, and since then the human cost of privatisation has been both demonstrated and severe.
In December 2015, the Corrections Department confirmed that its contract with Serco at Mount Eden Correctional Facility would not be renewed and control of the prison would return to the government in March 2017. The sub-standard operation of MECF 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.
In 2011 a contract for management of MECF was completed with Serco Group, a multinational security corporation. Like GEO, MECF's previous contractor, Serco’s history of corrections management is mired in controversy from its operations of prisons abroad, with international reports canvassing issues of violence, overcrowding and poor health care within prisons managed by Serco.
It became apparent in 2015 that management of MECF was no different from that of GEO. Deliberate understaffing of MECF to maximise profit was linked to organised fights amongst prisoners, prevalence of contraband inside the centre and the death of one inmate, Nick Evans. In July 2015, Serco was fined $300,000 by then-Minister of Corrections Sam Lotu-Iiga for systemic failures in performance over the period 2014/2015. Day-to-day management of the centre was also removed to the Corrections Department following the reports of violence.NZ community group No Prisons for Profit, an organisation of prisoners, ex-prisoners, families and interested citizens, stresses that the public duty of the state to run prisons cannot be delegated to private business with profit motives, and is vocal in highlighting the failures of privatisation under Serco at MECF.
26th Feburary 2016: Mt Eden prison contract loss spurs Secro's Asia Pacific earnings drop
9th December 2015: Serco's contract to run Mt Eden not renewed
26th July 2015: Flow of information at Mt Eden inadequate
23rd July 2015: Serco fails to meet performance targets
Justice Action's 2009 Campaign
In July 2000, Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP; previously Mount Eden Prison) in New Zealand became the first fully privatised prison in the country, being managed by Global Expertise in Outsourcing NZ Ltd (GEO), the NZ wing of private company Australasian Correctional Management (ACM), a subsidiary of the world’s largest multinational security services corporation G4S. G4S holds contracts to manage 55 prisons worldwide and rakes in a massive $12.9 billion in revenue annually.
It is also a private corporation marred by controversies in the way of human rights abuses of prisoners and detainees held in its facilities. In previous years, ACM has drawn strong opposition here in Australia for alleged human rights abuses of asylum seekers in detention centres including Woomera, Villawood and Curtin. The Australian government continually refuses to permit independent investigation into detention centres run by ACM – no doubt contributing to their profitability.
Management of ACRP by GEO ceased in 2005 following the election of the Labour Party, with responsibility of prisons returning to the Department of Corrections. After defeat in 2008 by the NZ National Coalition, however, the proposed Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill (first introduced 12 March 2009) sought to reinstate privatisation.
Opposition to privatisation in NZ was clear and unequivocal. The NZ Select Committee on Law and Order was the body charged with receiving community expression, following numerous demands these backwards laws be amended. NZ prisoners, their families and community members requested assistance for a public forum taking place on 4 May 2009, with Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins being brought in from Australia to help. NZ politicians, prison officers, union officials and members, and administrators were all involved. NZ Minister for Corrections, Judith Collins, was contacted for her participation but refused.
NZ Corrections then agreed to distribute a negotiated notice informing prisoners of the inquiry before the Select Committee to allow responses, but later reneged. Justice Action presented its submission on behalf of NZ prisoners in May of 2009. In addition, a submission by prison officers highlighted numerous failures of the private management. These included inadequate staffing, inadequate education and crime prevention programmes, incentives against drug searches, avoidance of reporting prisoner self-harm, officer compliance in prison escapes, and intentional underreporting of positive drug testing to retain quarterly Department bonuses – among many more.
Media Release July 30, 2009
NZ Prisoners say No to Select Committee on Privatisation
In Wellington yesterday, before the Select Committee on Law and Order, prisoners declared that privatisation was totally unacceptable and affected their rights as citizens in a democracy. 'Privatisation would reduce prisoners to slaves, in breach of ILO Convention 29, passing control of their lives to unaccountable multinationals corporations', according to JA spokesperson Brett Collins.
Minister of Corrections Judith Collins shows her lack of fresh ideas to deal with the resounding failure of prisons by wishing to outsource this primary government function. She misses the point that people only change their behaviour when they are involved, so she can't treat prisoners like they dont exist if she wants to reduce crime. 'Crime is a community responsibility', said JA Coordinator Michael Poynder.
The Minister's contempt is clear. She refused to attend the public prisoner consultation arranged by community organisations in May and refused to notify prisoners that they could write to the Select Committee. She and her staff were too busy to meet the representatives who had consulted about privatisation. Prisoners were denied the chance to address the Select Committee as no area was made available and the request to sit in Auckland was not read.
We had significant meetings with other political parties on the issues, and most importantly were able to tell the Select Committee that we had reached agreement with the prison officers that we would work together to confront privatisation and on policy issues affecting OH&S and recidivism. No corporation would want to reduce crime when it affects their future profit, said Mr Poynder.
The Select Committee heard compelling evidence of the failures of privatisation everywhere to deliver on the sales pitch, and the total opposition by all those involved. 'Let's hope that the Minister doesn't discover her authority isn't transferable in practice', said Mr Collins.
Ex-con back behind bars to fight jail privatisation
Tuesday May 5, 2009
By Simon Collins
Brett Collins was allowed into Mt Eden Prison yesterday after initially being refused.
The gates of Mt Eden Prison opened yesterday to a former convicted bank robber campaigning against privatising jails,
despite an official statement that he would not be let in.
Ngaruawahia-born Brett Collins, who served 10 years in an Australian jail for a bank robbery, now leads Sydney-based
Justice Action. The organisation helped to push the New South Wales Government into abandoning plans last Friday to
privatise one of two state jails it had earmarked for private management.
Quakers paid for him to come to Auckland to speak at a public meeting last night against a bill allowing private
management of New Zealand prisons. Submissions on the bill close on May 22.
He applied to the Corrections Department on April 26 for permission to talk about the bill with prisoner committees in
Mt Eden and Paremoremo jails, but a department spokesman said yesterday morning that the visit was "not possible",
partly because there were no elected committees of prisoners. But when Mr Collins turned up at the prison gates anyway
at 2pm with three local activists, acting prison manager Gary Stock eventually gave the group an hour with four
prisoners on the jail's welfare committee.
Mr Collins said the four prisoners and the prison officers he met all opposed privatisation, and the prisoners felt "resentful".
"They objected to multinationals coming in and making a profit out of them sitting longer in jail," he said.
Maori Party MP Hone Harawira was invited to speak in support of privatisation at last night's meeting, organised by
Global Peace and Justice Auckland, but had another engagement.
He said he would not be particularly happy to see multinationals running a local jail - "but by the same token neither
am I particularly happy to see the New Zealand Corrections Department running it".
"What would you suggest that the Maori Party did," he asked, "sit back and let things continue the way they are,
or do what we can to change things?"
Media release May 4, 2009
Mount Eden Prisoners' Consultation on Privatisation
Mount Eden Correctional Facility prisoners will have the chance to consult with the Australian delegation on prison privatisation today
at 2pm at the prison.
Although Minister Judith Collins said last week that prisoners are too busy working, over five hundred Mt Eden
prisoners say that they are mostly locked in cages and cells, and want to consult on the issue.
Mount Eden Prison Manager Gary Stock has been asked to set aside an area in the prison for that consultation
NZ community organisations paid for Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins to visit to assist the consultation.
Last week Australian plans to privatise prisons were reversed after major community opposition forced the
government to change its mind.
Mr Collins and Green Party MP Metiria Turei will also speak at the GPJA forum today at 7.30pm at Trades Hall,
147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland chaired by John Minto.
The Minister of Corrections Judith Collins, and Maori Party MP Hone Harawira have been invited or asked to
provide representatives, to present the case supporting prison privatisation.
Jim Gladwin 828 4517, Rose Hollins 828 0238 / 021 297 0875, Brett Collins 0061 438705003