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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Demolition of Private Prison Argument

This article is so good at demolishing the Private Prison Debate, it requires a thorough blow by blow account…
Private prison companies dispute criticisms
The State should be responsible for prisoners not private companies, the Human Rights Commission said today.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan appeared before Parliament's law and order select committee which is considering the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons Amendment) Bill.

Senior managers from private prison company GEO Group were present and heard groups condemn their business.

The firm ran Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) for five years until Labour won the 1999 election and refused to renew its contract.

Ms Noonan said protecting the rights of detainees was a key function of government and should not be contracted out.

"The management of prisons involves the exercise of some of the state's most coercive powers against individuals," the commission's submission said.

"There should be direct accountability for the exercise of such powers. A government department directly accountable to a minister provides the clearest accountability."

And this is the philosophical crux of private prisons, we should never hand over the full coercive power of the State to a mere company. Such power has to be unblinkingly monitored through the direct accountability of an MP responsible for prisons. Placing a company into that mix removes direct responsibility, not only allowing a company to have the full power of the state but profits from a motivation that can seriously damage the wider community. Rehabilitation isn’t in the private prison profit motive, paying victims rights groups large sums of cash to call for longer and longer sentences so that those prisoners are locked in for longer is where the Private Prison Company gets it’s profit.

If the bill was to go ahead the commission wanted its monitoring measures beefed up.

Recommendations included protecting staff from being sacked if they gave information to monitors and permitting prisoners to complain directly to monitors. Also prisons should be required to comply with international conventions around torture.

Dick Cheney’s private prison industry is under investigation for torturing prisoners.

Ms Noonan said early intervention would make the biggest difference.

She called for willingness across parties not to make political capital out of the issue.

National and ACT started this raw meat circus where hate has warped social policy, and there is no sight yet that they are going to do anything to stop the prison population rise.

Catholic organisation Caritas was concerned problems in the United States' private prisons – such as beatings, rapes, suicides and other deaths in custody – would be repeated here.

It noted that in the US the same people running private prisons were also involved in lobbying government for longer sentences.

And isn’t it interesting that the Sensible Senetencing Trust WILL NOT release any information on their donors, they have been challenged to prove that they are not receiving money from the GEO Group and have refused to say outright that they are not.

GEO Group Australia managing director Pieter Bezuidenhout said his company had managed prisons in Australia for 17 years, operating in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.

He said he had listened to criticisms and said his company could only do what governments told it to.

"We've got no say in terms of the length of sentence. We've got no interest in the length of the sentence," he said.

"We are paid on a bed capacity. . . It's up to the state or government to fill those beds. There's no interest for me to have longer sentences or lesser sentences because I am getting paid for 500 beds."

OH COME ON! Does he really think his logic on this will convince NZers that the private prison industry isn’t in it for the money and want to lengthen the sentences? Listen to him, “We are paid on a bed capacity”, so what would happen if GEO built a 1000 bed prison, it would fill, pretending that he is ‘capped’ by current bed numbers to prove he doesn’t want to lengthen sentences is a joke.

While National MPs had emphasised cost savings, that should not be the only driver, Mr Bezuidenhout said.

"Privatisation is not about cost savings. If that's all you want to achieve I am saying that you are knocking at the wrong door.

And isn’t this the most damaging part so far, the head of the private prison industry telling us straight up that this isn’t the way to save money – THE MAIN REASON NATIONAL HAVE EMBARKED UPON THIS PRIVATIZATION OF PRISONS – and the head tells us that won’t happen.

"Privatisation will bring an enhanced public service because you've got a mixed economy, and in a mixed economy both the private operator and the public service will improve and enhance service."

What? Mixed economy? Is that the fucking best they’ve got? We should have a company take the rights off citizens and allow them to make profit from incarceration at the risk of their profit motivation sending us into a prison nation all for the none-definable reward of a ‘mixed economy’? Oh come on, someone paid for this guys airfare for crying out loud and that’s the best he’s got? Jesus mate did you come up with that in the taxi ride in? Oh the joy of a mixed economy, let us flutter in the memorial garden of Adam Smith, we have a mixed fucking economy. Mana from heaven brothers and sisters, there is no depression in NZ. Is he for real?

He said in NSW prisoners spent 30 per cent more time out of their cells than those in public prisons.

GEO was aware of problems in the US but said there was high awareness about issues in Australasia and the company had to protect its reputation so would not cut corners.

Oh he’s killing me, because their reputation in the US is shit, they’ll be real careful to treat us right? Who is believing this bullshit? They must know they have it in the bag to not even pretend to try and eliminate any of the criticisms thrown at them.

Dom Karauria, a former general manager for ACRP and now executive general manager for the firm's operations in Australia, said politicians had the power to ensure safety.

"The answer is you people. You people here are representing the New Zealand public and I'm sure the final legislation that is determined will ensure there is no avenue for those difficulties to occur here."

Oh my God, this guy is already shifting the blame to the Government before they’ve even started operations, showing they will duck and dodge everything, even the first law and order select committee meeting.

MPs asked about penalties for errors. Mr Bezuidenhout said in Queensland a death in custody, not from natural causes, resulted in $100,000 penalties.

Mr Karauria said in Auckland the prison was penalised $50,000 per escape and there were two in the five years the company ran the prison.

Great, fines work, put them on the Public service.

Labour's Rick Barker questioned about whether GEO would be open to being covered by the Official Information Act and be audited by the Auditor-General.

Mr Bezuidenhout said that was up to the Government.

"If the State determines, when you tender, that you will make everything available then so be it. . .I'm purely there to serve what the state tells me to do."

So we don’t even have it clear that there will be full transperancy over the operation of Private prisons in NZ? Unbelievable.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins has indicated Auckland's Mt Eden Prison may become privately managed.

The redevelopment of the prison is due to be completed in 2011.

2011, just in time to privatize NZ under National’s ‘privatize in the second term’ grand strategy. If we really want this as a future the next election is where it will be decided.


At 1/7/09 7:18 pm, Anonymous aj said...

Sort of slightly off topic, but has anyone thought of an obvious solution to the prison overcrowding issue? grant an equal number of early releases to carefully selected prisoners as there are incoming numbers.

At 1/7/09 7:44 pm, Blogger Paul Walker said...

This debate isn't about privatisation, its about contracting out. I really do wish people knew the difference since it matters to the argument. Privatisation is about depoliticisation of production or provision, which contracting out does not do. I have discussed the academic economics literature on contracting out of prisons, which in the US they call "privatisation", here. The paper 'The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons'. "Quarterly Journal of Economics", 112(4) November: 1127-61 by Oliver D. Hart, Andrei Shleifer and Robert W. Vishny conclude that there is a case to be made for private prisons, but it may not be as strong as for other services currently provided by the government, and it is at its weakest for the case of maximum security prisons.

At 2/7/09 9:49 pm, Blogger Ahma Daeus said...


Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to "job-out" its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.

My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing "The Single Voice Petition"

Please visit our website for further information: http://www.npsctapp.blogspot.com

–Ahma Daeus
"Practicing Humanity Without A License"...


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