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Corrections Minister Anne Tolley describes progress at New Zealand’s only private prison as ‘decent’. A far more appropriate word would be ‘embarrassing’, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Charles Chauvel says.
"Three improper inmate releases, three wrongful detentions, one escape and a 72 per cent failure rate to get inmate plans could in no way be described as progress, yet that’s exactly how the government is presenting Serco's latest set of ‘achievements’.
"Such is National's determination to privatise at all costs that, instead of a review of Serco's fitness to operate Mt Eden, its reward remains another lucrative contract from the state to operate the new Wiri prison,” Charles Chauvel said.
"The escapes, wrongful detentions and improper early releases are bad enough, since they go to the heart of Serco's ability to ensure the lawful containment of inmates. But the failure to get inmate plans in place points to an even more worrying phenomenon - Serco's ability and willingness to comply with Government policy.
"National has made much of its stated desire to reorient Corrections' policy and operations in favour of reducing re-offending and rehabilitating inmates. It has just finished one $10m restructuring with the loss of over 100 jobs with this in mind. Central to rehabilitation is the need for inmates to be on a plan that identifies their issues and needs and sets out how they are going to be met during their time in prison.
"Serco appears to be running such a pressure cooker environment at Mt Eden in order to preserve its profitability that it is willing to forego this key requirement in 72 per cent of cases.
“If that approach is also followed at Wiri once Serco is running it, serious questions arise as to whether Government policy can be expected to be applied by a private sector prison operator.
"When Wiri is up and running, Serco will be responsible for up to 25 per cent of the overall prison population. If there are only 28 per cent of inmate plans in place on time that puts a serious dent in the Government's stated commitment to rehabilitation.
"Anne Tolley has some serious thinking to do about the wisdom of letting the Wiri contract proceed in its current form", Charles Chauvel said