Commentary: Cameron Walker, Socialist Aotearoa
It is sad that National, ACT and the Maori Party have voted to privatise prisons. Overseas experience shows that prisons run for the purpose of profit are incredibly open to abuse of inmates, poor treatment of staff and corruption. Earlier this year it emerged that two judges in Pennsylvania, USA, had been receiving payments from the owners of a youth prison in return for passing harsh sentences. One girl was sentenced to three months simply making a satirical Myspace page about her teacher.
The Corrections Minister, Judith Collins, claims that the experience of Auckland Central Remand Prison under the management of GEO Group Australia, earlier this decade, shows that private prisons are a success. However, the prison was brand new and utilised the latest developments in prison design and security system technology. Disruptive prisoners could always be moved to Mt Eden prison next door. As the American prison researcher Christian Parenti notes, private companies break into the prison market by taking on easy to handle contracts. If powerful interests profit from more people being imprisoned I doubt society will make strong efforts to tackle crime and its causes.