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March 1, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Stop The Cell Off Holds Parliament Captive

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Plans to privatise New Zealand prisons not welcome in Wellington

Members of the Corrections Association of New Zealand (CANZ) marched to Parliament on February 9 to speak out against Corrections Minister Judith Collin’s proposal to privatise New Zealand’s prison.

The protest followed a gathering at Pipitea Marae to discuss the proposal that would see at least 450 workers stand to lose their job effective immediately should Auckland Central Remand Prison and Mt Eden be sold.

With the prison population increasing in Correctional Facilities across New Zealand, there is increased pressure on the government to look into privatising prisons.

CANZ Advocate Ken Johnson spoke briefly at the rally, explaining that changes in government policy have caused the rising prison population.

“The prison population continues to rise and yet the allowances to cover our muster do not.”

In an effort to curb the growing numbers in prisons, a double bunking system was introduced last year. Documents from the Department of Corrections briefings with Collins reveal that the sharing of cells was to be a temporary arrangement due to a predicted number crisis.

CANZ President Beven Hanlon explained to union members that when the Prison Service entered discussions with CANZ, they were told there was no extra funding to cover the costs of building new units, leaving only the option of double bunking or private sale, a statement questioned by Hanlon.

“In the 2009 Budget there was a 7 percent increase in the level of funding to the Department of Corrections, but they continue to tell us is there is no money to cover the cost of new facilities.”

The push to send New Zealand prisons into the private sector is backed by the belief that privately owned prisons operate at a lower cost to the tax payer, increasing competition and accountability in the private sector.

Hanlon claimed that while under private ownership, the administration of Auckland Central Remand Prison came at a greater cost.

“When ACRP was no longer under the ownership of the Labour Government, it cost $7,000 more per year to operate, with officers working on capped salaries.”

As members called on National Government representatives to speak with them, Leader of the Progressive Coalition Jim Anderton explained that his party, like the Greens, oppose the sale of New Zealand Prisons.

“There is no empirical evidence to justify the sale of these prisons. Statistics show that it does not prevent crime, it does not lower costs, and the prisons do not operate better.”

Unlike private prisons overseas, the cultural aspect of rehabilitation in Correctional Facilities is unique to New Zealand. Hanlon claimed that if sold, it is likely this component will be phased out.

“GEO [a worldwide private prison management company] have been taken around the prisons in New Zealand so it would seem they are interested running one. But it’s a business and the Maori Focus units don’t turn a profit.”

With the future of Correctional Facilities in New Zealand up in the air, CANZ are appealing the decision to double bunk the four new Prisons; Spring Hill, Ngawha, Auckland Women’s and Otago. A court date has not been set.

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