In the latest neo-liberal push towards privatisation, and following the dangerous precedents set by the American private prison model, New Zealand is opening another privately run prison in Wiri, South Auckland next week set to house up to 960 inmates; a quarter of the country’s prison population.

The prison will be run and profited from by the publicly listed UK company Serco, which currently also manages the Mt Eden Corrections Facility. The prison will cost New Zealand taxpayers an estimated $1 billion over 25 years.

Serco’s track record raises questions about their ability to run a prison system. In 2013, Serco was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office in the UK after charging £68.5 million for tagging work that was never carried out. The result was a six month ban on British government contracts as well as having to repay the £68.5 million in full.

Serco has also been accused of high turnover of staff due to safety fears, as at times there is just one guard to 45 inmates, or even one guard to 90 inmates after sick staff weren’t replaced. The result is Mt Eden having had the highest number of prisoner assaults for the last three years running.

The Wiri private prison will operate as a working prison, having signed agreements with PlaceMakers, Envirowaste and Cabinets to Go. When asked who will profit from the work completed by the prisoners, Minister of Corrections Sam Lotu-Iiga could not answer the question.

“I’m not privy to those sums, I don’t have the figures on me, but we could ask Serco what the contracts are for,” Lotu-Liga said.

However, Serco announced to the stock exchange it aims to make annual profits of $30 million.

Another issue is that Serco will be paid based on 100% capacity rate, even if the beds are empty. It’s hard to argue that this is the most cost effective option for the tax payer when not only is it being profited from, but being funded as if it was at full capacity even when this isn’t the case.

We only need to look to the United States to see how the private prison industry is exploiting the public, all for profit. In 2013, an American judge was jailed for 28 years after conspiring with private prisons to hand down maximum sentences to young offenders in return for millions of dollars of kickbacks.

Like in economics, when there is a demand there will always be a supply. In America, the private prisons have signed agreements with the government to maintain occupancy rates of 90% creating a demand for prisoners. It’s then no surprise to see minority groups such as young black men targeted, arrested and sent to prison for seemingly minor drug offences. This approach also has a serious effect on a nation’s drug policies, and results in private lobbying against any proposed to changes to drug schedules. This is important in New Zealand as we approach the inevitable legalisation of cannabis and other less harmful drugs as the world starts looking at the facts and ignoring the years of misinformation.

When does making a select group of investors and CEOs wealthy by keeping people locked in cages get seen as the moral and ethical dilemma it is? Public services are meant to be run for exactly that, the public’s benefit. We as a country need to ensure that an industry which should be run as a public service by the government isn’t taken over by private interests and run with the main goal of maximising profits, not rehabilitating prisoners.

The government needs to answer further questions about the profitability of the new prison, and whether this is aligned with the goals of our Ministry of Corrections to reduce crime and the demand for prisons. New Zealand should be looking for the most cost effective and successful way to rehabilitate prisoners and reintegrate them successfully into society. This isn’t possible when profit is the target, as so called ‘costs’ in rehabilitation don’t fall within the scope of necessary activities required to achieve bottom line success.

As the National government attempts to bring New Zealand closer to the failed privatised system the United States operates under, we the public need to look at the facts coming out of the United States and see if this is the path we want our country to go down.

 

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Wake Up NZ is a team of dedicated truth-seekers from all over New Zealand. We are committed to disseminating information that the mainstream media fails to bring to you.

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3 Responses

  1. Steffen

    Dont be fooled into believing that just because the New Zealand Company Administration no longer use the hanging gallows, by no-means has the war on the Iwi/Tribes, Tangata Whenua, Kaitiaki,and our Manuhiri o Aotearoa/NiuTirani has ended, the method has just changed, thats all. So in other words ethnic cleansing is a tool still utillised by this Treasoness Company and it is called The Correctional Facillitys Plan.. I have a Plan that can succeed in replacing Prison As a means to rehabillitate and Reintergrate, but It requires assisstance from all Iwi to agree for our people.

    Reply
  2. John

    I personally am disgusted in the thought of the privatization of NZ prisons
    I feel that prisoners are a states responsibility and should be dealt with accordingly. i saying that thoe in every crowd you always will have extremes to extremes the worst of the worst offenders I personally think tools like preventative detention and incarceration can be useful for dealing with the worst. But when a thief or a common drug dealer or addict are hauled off and targeted thrown into prison with no regard I think these types of people given mentor ship and advice and guidance can be stared in the right direction, lets face it under a private prison system that will hurt profits so it will just be a case of thrown the out haul them in which is unfair and unjust. Everyone should have an equal chance in society thoe in an ideal world that is not always the case I won’t elaborate I myself came from a rough up bringing and was fortunate enough to have good mentors before I took the wrong path but I guess again profit and corporate interest is put ahead of the citizen good one NZ government just throw them out haul them in

    Reply
  3. Valerie

    This is an excellent article. I believe that Rimutaka prison will be closed and those prisoners will be sent to the new privatised prison.

    Reply

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