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Keep Prisons Public

The PSA is strongly opposed to private prisons

New Zealand has very limited experience of private prisons – just the 5 years of the Auckland Remand Prison.  
We should be worried about prison privatisation because experience from overseas shows that it has negative effects for prison staff and also for our families and communities and for the country as a whole.

Not the way of the futureprison

•    The UK prison service has recently been winning back prison contracts from the private sector.
•    In Australia, Victoria has moved away from private prisons.
•    In the US, Idaho, Florida, Texas and Louisiana have all renationalised prisons.

Cost cutting – at the expense of safety, working conditions and pay

•    Now is not the time for the Government to be axing good public sector jobs to create more casual and low quality jobs.
•    Official government research from the UK has found that any cheaper running costs of private prisons are “almost wholly to do with different wage rates and different staff levels, and also pension arrangements, sick leave arrangements and different lengths of the working week”.
•    Overall, UK private prisons pay 21% less than in the public sector.  The research also found that the more private prisons there were, the lower the pay – “competition” drove salaries down, not up.
•    Staff turnover in UK private prisons is ten times higher than in public prisons.
•    A US Department of Justice study has found that assaults on staff and inmates more than double in private prisons.  

Poor performance

•    A leaked report from the UK Prison Service in 2008, ranking performance of all prisons in six categories, showed that 10 out of 11 privately run prisons in England and Wales were in the bottom quarter of all prisons.

Kiwi taxpayers’ money will go offshore

•    Kiwi taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be going to fill the pockets of overseas private investors.  There is no real competition for prison contracts.  There are only 6 companies that run prisons in the US, UK and Australia and three of these, including Australian Correctional Management, are actually part of the same Wackenhut group.

Keeping the justice pipeline flowing

•    Prisons are a crucial part of a modern, integrated criminal justice system.  At lot of effort has been put in over the years to try and line up the different parts of the system so that they mostly work together rather than against each other– the work of the police, the courts and judiciary, prisons and probation is all connected. Selling off such central parts of the criminal justice system is a step back, not a step forward.

Only the State has the power to detain

•    No-one would suggest privatising the police or the judiciary.  It’s a fundamental part of the Government’s job to keep our communities safe and only the State has the legal power to intervene in people’s lives, lock them up and keep them from their families sometimes for the rest of their lives.  The State can’t delegate this responsibility.  It can act through agents – such as the police or the prison service – and accountability for State actions is much more easily seen when it directly employs those agents.  

Reducing public accountability and responsibility

•    Private prison contractors are not as directly accountable as government departments and public servants.  Contracting arrangements and information about how they are run is “commercially sensitive”.  They don’t have the same legal obligations to disclose official information and they don’t have to comply with the same codes of conduct. They have a vested interest in making sure breaches or inadequacies are not made public - they have to maintain their credibility to maintain their profits.



PSA media releases on prisons

Private prisons cost more and provide worse service
Government makes misleading claims about private prisons
PSA concerned government’s policies put prison staff at risk


Opinion pieces

The government is misleading the public about the benefits of privatising prisons

Taxpayer will play more for less from private prisons

Read the article about prisons in the PSA Journal

Prison privatisation survey results

PSA submission on the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill 2009

CTU submission on the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill 2009
Life on the inside : PSA survey on the working life of New Zealand prison staff




Australian prison guards voice their concern over private prisons:

 In the US the corrections industry is booming. PBS invesigates the downside of private prisons:

 See Part 2 of the PBS doco here.