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Privatisation of the prison industry: Wackenhut, GSL etc.

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mr anderson:
Violent guards gang accused of running jail

Karen Kissane
November 23, 2007

A GROUP of aggressive guards known as "The Family" dominates the Melbourne Custody Centre and often uses excessive force against prisoners, an investigation by the State Ombudsman has been told. In a damning report tabled in Parliament yesterday, Ombudsman George Brouwer concluded that guards had seriously mistreated a remand prisoner being strip-searched on June 13.

CCTV footage released yesterday shows the prisoner being grabbed by the throat and pushed to the ground, with several guards then piling on top of him. He received a cut to the head. Following a complaint from the prisoner, Mr Brouwer summonsed guards from the centre, an underground facility in Lonsdale Street below the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Mr Brouwer wrote: "It is of concern that witnesses spoke of a culture that involves staff favouritism; the centre being dominated by a few staff; tolerance of abuse of prisoners; and an environment where speaking out means job loss."

The report quotes guards claiming that a clique nicknamed "The Family" instigated violence with prisoners and struck prisoners unnecessarily.

"They thrive on aggression," one guard reported.

Another claimed that prisoners were "badgered" verbally by guards with "degrading" remarks such as: "'You're a f---ing scumbucket. You deserve to be in here."

A third guard said: "There's staff members that want to get at the prisoner that's on the floor simply because the prisoner wouldn't listen in the first instance."

Mr Brouwer concluded that some of the staff had inappropriate attitudes, lacked proper training and failed to follow procedure.

The centre is supervised by Victoria Police but is privately run by the GEO Group Australia, part of an $830 million international company with 59,000 beds in 68 jails and psychiatric hospitals in countries including the US, Canada and South Africa. The GEO Group runs four correctional facilities in Australia, including Fulham prison in Sale.

Managing director Pieter Bezuidenhout said yesterday that the company disagreed with the Ombudsman's report. He said CCTV images showed the prisoner being aggressive towards a guard before he was restrained.

The officers involved would face disciplinary action where necessary, he said.

"GEO has a policy of zero tolerance for any failure to treat any person in custody appropriately."

Victoria Police said it was investigating an alleged assault at the custody centre. Mr Brouwer wrote that oversight of the centre by GEO and Victoria Police was inadequate. The person in charge of reviewing incidents was three months behind in his viewing of CCTV footage, Mr Brouwer wrote.

He recommended that:

■GEO comprehensively review the centre and the suitability of the officers involved in the June incident.

■Prisoners be allowed access to phones.

■Victoria Police review its supervision.

■The centre, which lacks fresh air and daylight, should only be used to hold prisoners for short stays (some prisoners are held for up to 28 days).

A spokeswoman for Victoria Police said the centre's operations would be reviewed but it was impractical to limit it to being a daytime holding facility.

Installing a phone system for prisoners would be almost impossible but the problem would be examined further.

Deputy Ombudsman John Taylor told The Age that some previous complaints of violence at the centre could not be investigated properly because CCTV footage had not been available due to "alleged system failure".

mr anderson:
Prison guards fired over conduct breaches

Carly Crawford
December 13, 2007,21985,22914028-2862,00.html

MORE than 20 prison guards have been sacked for sleeping on the job, getting too close to inmates and other protocol breaches over the past two years. The firm that runs the troubled Melbourne Custody Centre -- GEO Group Australia -- has sacked or let go 20 guards from its 14 Australian jails since January last year.

GEO Group managing director Pieter Bezuidenhout told the Herald Sun that four of those were from Victoria.

The company said that two guards had been dismissed for having inappropriate relationships with inmates; two for physically abusing inmates; one for sleeping on the job; one for misusing a prison vending machine; and one for accepting gift vouchers from a supplier. Mr Bezuidenhout said that another five guards had been sacked or resigned after launching vicious physical attacks on inmates in the Melbourne Custody Centre in 2005.

One of those was David Eastham, 25, jailed last month for kicking an inmate as he lay handcuffed on the floor.

The State Ombudsman found a culture of aggression in the centre, mostly instigated by a thuggish network called "The Family".

After the Ombudsman's findings were made public last month, Mr Bezuidenhout told the centre's staff one violent incident was "one too many".

Only one guard from Victoria's public prison system was sacked in the same period.

He was among 13 reprimanded or demoted for "wrongful behaviour".

A Corrections spokeswoman said most staff performed well and those who did not were disciplined.

A Supreme Court judge on Tuesday knocked back a seven-month battle by the Department of Justice to keep secret documents found dumped in a filing cabinet at a second-hand furniture shop. The documents revealed allegations of corruption and sexual abuse at Victoria's largest women's jail, the maximum-security Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, in 2003. According to Channel 9, they alleged that a guard gave a prisoner cigarettes in return for sexual favours, and that an officer lived with a former inmate upon her release after providing his phone number while she was in jail.

It is alleged he also asked a second former inmate to move in.

Corrections Commissioner Kelvin Anderson said investigations of misconduct in Victorian prisons had been tightened since 2003.

mr anderson:

The Real Woomera

Broadcast: 19/5/2003

Woomera videos reveal desperate conditions

Tonight the ABC's Four Corners program has revealed the full extnt of the desperate conditions inside the Woomera Detention Centre. Graphic images, filmed by detention centre guards, show inmates slashing themselves on razor wire and adults and children with their lips sewn together. The facility is now closed but its legacy may be a series of inquiries and legal action against the Government. Former Woomera employees spoke of their frustration with staffing levels inside the camp, claiming the Immigration Department refused to listen to their concerns about the lack of security and the health of detainees.

Presenter: Tony Eastley
Reporter: John Stewart

JOHN STEWART: The Four Corners program revealed brutal images from inside the Woomera Detention Centre - detainees caught up in razor wire, attempting to cut their wrists, asylum seekers with their lips sewn together, repeated suicide attempts and the use of water cannon and tear gas to control riots.

MALE GUARD 1: f**k you're ugly.

You are one ugly f**king Arab.

MALE GUARD 2: Do not throw rocks back at them - you give them ammunition.

FEMALE GUARD: Can I go up and whack 'im with me baton?

JOHN STEWART: The Woomera Detention Centre was closed last month.

Former guards claim the centre was grossly understaffed and lacking in basic security.


We just did not have enough staff to adequately maintain the security at the centre.

JOHN STEWART: It's claimed that the Department of Immigration was repeatedly warned about the potential for large-scale riots and break-outs but failed to act.

ALLEY GRACE, WELFARE OFFICER: Information was given to Immigration and ACM management to avoid -- they were fully aware the break-out was going to happen.

JOHN STEWART: In one instance, the lack of staff resulted in detainees on suicide watch being handcuffed.

MALE GUARD: If he tries to cut himself again, cuff him.




MALE GUARD: Because we don't have the staff tonight.

JOHN STEWART: Video filmed by detention centre guards shows detainees lying on the floor inside an overcrowded hospital and many examples of asylum seekers suffering psychological stress.

Detention centre guards also claim that the Department of Immigration destroyed records of detainees to cover up a series of incidents, including the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy.

ALLEY GRACE: I was very, very, very concerned that he was being sexually abused and used as a male prostitute.

JOHN STEWART: Former Woomera nurses are attempting to sue the company which ran the centre, Australian Correctional Management, for the stress they suffered while working in the camp.

ALLEY GRACE: I've seen children bashed every day, every day.

It's very clear in my mind.

JOHN STEWART: The program also claimed that Australian Correctional Management made millions from running the camp, while relying on the Immigration Department to pay for any additional costs blow-outs.

mr anderson:


Privatisation of Prisons

by Lenny Roth
Background Paper No 3/04
“Prison privatisation [was] the most significant development in penal policy in the second half of the 20th century.”[1]

It was a development that emerged in the United States in the mid 1980s, and which New South Wales became part of in the early 1990s. In 1990, the Greiner government introduced legislation to enable it to contract out prison management; and in 1993, NSW became the second Australian state, after Queensland, to have a prison run by the private sector, with the opening of the Junee Correctional Centre. Since then, privately run prisons have been introduced in most other Australian states as well as in other countries including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. The issue has ignited much debate wherever it has been introduced or proposed. This background paper will trace the growth of private prisons in Australia and overseas and will explore the events leading to the Junee privatisation in NSW. It will also discuss the main arguments for and against privately run prisons as well as canvassing elements of accountability systems. Finally, this paper will present a summary of reports that evaluate the Junee prison and privately run prisons in other jurisdictions. First of all, however, this paper will provide a brief update on the situation in NSW and an explanation of the concept of prison privatisation.

--- Quote ---[1] Harding R, “Private Prisons in Australia: The Second Phase” (April 1998) No. 84 Australian
Institute of Criminology - Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice at 6. Since 2000,
Professor Richard Harding has been the Inspector of Custodial Services in Western Australia.
--- End quote ---


4.1 Private prisons today

4.1.1 The most privatised nations: Australia, United Kingdom and United States
The modern prison privatisation phenomenon emerged in the United States in the mid 1980s and quickly spread to Australia and the United Kingdom. [20] In the United States, there are now over 100 private prisons in 31 states and the federal system, while in Australia there are 7 privately run prisons, and in the UK there are currently 11 private facilities. Australia has the highest proportion of inmates in private prisons of any nation, at around 17 percent. The UK has almost 10 percent of its prisoners in privately run facilities. The United States has by far the highest number of prisoners in privately run prisons (around 94,000 inmates) but this represents only about 7 percent of its total inmate population. New South Wales has around 10 percent of its prisoners in the Junee private prison, while Victoria has around 35 percent of its inmates in its two privately run prisons, which is the highest percentage of all the Australian states.

--- Quote ---[20] The private sector was involved with prisoners at an earlier point in history in Australia, the UK and the US. See Vallance S, ‘Private Prison Management: Panacea or Pretence?’, 1991 50 (3) Australian Journal of Public Administration 397 at 397-398; and Smith B and Morn F, ‘The History of Privatization in Criminal Justice’, in Shichor and Gilbert, Note 17, p 3ff (US and UK).
--- End quote ---

4.1.2 Recent developments in other nations:
Other nations have recently entered the private prisons field, or are considering doing so. New Zealand opened its first and only privately run prison in July 2000. The 300-bed Auckland Central Remand Prison is managed by Australasian Correctional Management (Now Geo Group Inc. Australia) under a five-year contract with the Department of Corrections, expiring in 2005. [21] Privatisation took place under the former National government, which also had plans to privatise a further five new prisons and seven specialist youth facilities. [22]. However, the current government intends not to renew the private operator’s contract and has recently legislated against private prisons.23 In Canada, the first and only privately run prison opened in Ontario in 2001. It is a ‘superjail’, with a capacity of 1,184 inmates, which is run by the US-based Management and Training Corporation. [24]. Developments in other countries are summarised in the following extract from a May 2002 article by Stephen Nathan:

--- Quote ---…..South Africa has the world’s two largest private prisons [25] and France’s semi -private prisons, are becoming a ‘third way’ of choice for a number of governments.

Semi -private prisons - in which the private sector finances (or not, in the case of France’s first 21) builds, maintains and operates all non-custodial services under contract, while the state employs the prison officers – are catching on. Belgium has one; the German state of Hesse is planning one; the prison service in England and Wales is strongly considering the idea. But
Chile, under the watchful eye of the government of Peru, has signed the first three contracts of a programme of ten privately financed prisons. France has commissioned six more. …Meanwhile, South Korea’s ministry of corrections has invited religious groups as well as private companies to bid for a 300 bed prison management contract. And in Israel, long regarded by stock analysts as a potential market, the current minister of justice supports full privatisation of the prison service and the immediate establishment of private prisons. Governments as diverse as Costa Rica, Lesotho, Lebanon, Thailand, the Netherlands and Venezuela are at various stages of feasibility studies or tendering processes while others, such as Poland, Malaysia and Hong Kong are closely watching developments, particularly in the UK. In a new twist, the government of Belize is attempting to contract out the management of its prisons department on a non-profit basis. That contract could, however, end up with a private company. Payback for the industry is also expected after companies made sales pitches to conferences of ministers and senior corrections officials from the Caribbean, Central and South America, Southern, Central and Eastern Africa and 20 countries in the Asia/Pacific region between September 2000 and October 2001. [26]
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---[21] Ibid.
[22] Nathan S, Private Adult Correctional Facilities: Fines, Failures and Dubious Practices (April 2000) located on Ontario Public Service website: As to early developments in NZ in the 1990s see Harding (1997), Note 14, p 9.
[23] Corrections Act 2004 (assented to 3 June 2004). See NZ Department of Corrections website: See also the second reading speech to Bill, the Hon, Paul Swain, Hansard, 7/4/04 located at:
[24] See the Central North Correctional Centre website: and also John Howard Society of Alberta, ‘Private prisons’, (2002), which is located on the website at As to developments at federal level and in other provinces in 1990s, see Harding (1997), Note 14, p 10.
[25] These two prisons were privately financed, designed, and built and are privately operated. Both prisons are maximum security with around 3,000 beds each. The Manguang prison in Bloemfontein opened in July 2001 and became fully operational in January 2002. It is run by the Denmark -based Group 4 Falck led consortium. The Kutama-Sinthumule prison at Louis Trichardt in Northern Province opened in February 2002 and is run by a consortium led by Florida-based Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. See Nathan S, ‘Prison Privatisation: The International Experience and Implications for Africa’ (2003) 11 Southern African Human Rights Review 7. See also Berg J, “Prison Privatization: Developments in South Africa” in Coyle et al, Capitalist Punishment: Prison Privatization and Human Rights, Clarity Press Inc, 2003, p 179.
--- End quote ---

The private prisons industry[27]: The two largest US private prison companies are Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (WCC) (now known as GEO Group Inc).[28] These two companies were the pioneers of private prisons in the US in the mid 1980s and expanded into Australia, the UK and other countries.[29] As at 1999, these two companies accounted for over 75% of the worldwide private prison market, with another 12 companies making up the remainder.[30] Other major players in the private prisons industry are:

Group 4 Falck, a Denmark based multinational, whose prisons business operates under its Global Solutions (GSL) division. Through its subsidiaries, Group 4 has prison contracts in Australia, the UK and South Africa.[31]
·  Sodexho SA, a France based multinational, which has prison contracts in Australia and the UK, through its subsidiaries (Australian Integrated Management Services – AIMS – and UK Detention Services). It also has prison contracts in France.
·  Serco plc, a UK based multinational who has five prison contracts in the UK through its subsidiary, Premier Custodial Group.
·  Management Training Corporation (MTC), a US based company that has recently expanded into Australia and Canada.

The total corporate revenues relating to private prisons and jails was estimated at $1 billion in 1997.[32]

--- Quote ---[26] Nathan S, ‘Aggressively seeking further opportunities’, (2002, May issue) Howard League Magazine at p 5. For developments since May 2002 see Nathan S, “Private Prison Report International”: located on the website See also Nathan S, “Private Prisons: Emerging and Transformative Economies in Coyle et al, Capitalist Punishment: Prison Privatization and Human Rights, Clarity Press Inc (Atlanta) and Zed Books (London), 2003.
[27] This section is largely based on information contained in publications by Stephen Nathan including: “Aggressively seeking further opportunities”, “Globalisation and private prisons”, and “Private prisons an international overview”
[28] WCC was formerly a subsidiary of the US based Wackenhut Corporation. In 2002, Group 4 Falck (mentioned in the paper below) bought the Wackenhut Corporation and acquired a 57 percent stake in WCC. However, in 2003, WCC bought back that stake from Group 4. Therefore, while Group 4 now owns the Wackenhut Corporation, WCC (now GEO Inc) is a standalone company with no parent.
[29] CCA no longer has a presence in Australia.
[30] Austin J and Coventry G, ‘Are We Better Off?: Comparing Private and Public Prisons in the United States (1999) 11(2) Current Issues in Criminal Justice 177 at 178.
[31] Group 4 is currently in the process of merging with British firm Securicor, which runs the only private prison in Wales.
[32] McDonald et al Private Prison in the United States: An Assessment of Current Practice, Abt Associates Inc, Cambridge, MA, 1998, p 7.
--- End quote ---

4.2 Context in which private prisons emerged

4.2.1 United States:
As the United States was the first nation to embrace private prisons, it is appropriate to start with a look at the circumstances leading to that development. The policy of privatising prisons emerged in the US in response to a crisis in the nation’s penal system that surfaced in the early 1980s. During a stage of unprecedented growth in the number of prisoners, largely due tougher law and order policies (including the ‘war on drugs’) prisons across the country reached critical levels of overcrowding. Overcrowding in old prisons led to deteriorating conditions and a corresponding surge in litigation by inmates. [33] Federal Courts found crowding and other conditions of confinement in many prisons throughout the country to be so deficient as to be in violation of the US Constitution, and they ordered state governments to remedy the situation. [34] While pressure was mounting on states to do something urgently, many state governments were reaching their debt ceilings and they faced considerable difficulty in raising funds the finance the construction of new prisons.[35] In this climate, they saw a pressing need for alternatives and the private sector responded to this in the form of privately owned companies specialising in the building and management of correctional facilities.[36] Turning to the private sector was an attractive solution because if a private firm financed, constructed and operated a new prison, payments could be charged against operations budgets, avoiding the problems of raising additional capital.[37] In addition, the belief was that the private sector could build new prisons faster and cheaper and create savings in operational costs.[38] By this stage, private organisations had some history of involvement in corrections, albeit outside the “deep end”[39] of corrections. McDonald et al state that “correctional agencies had began, during the late 1960s, to enlist small generally not- for-profit, organizations to operate halfway houses, work release facilities, and other ‘community based facilities.’”[40].

In the 1960s and 1970s there was also a significant increase in the number of juvenile facilities being operated by private organisations.[41] As well, in the late 1970s the federal immigration service began to contract with private organisations for the detention of illegal immigrants.[42] McDonald et al state, “these…contracts provided the seedbed for the contemporary private prison industry in the United States, as several of the now significant players in the industry started with them.”[43] Significantly, the penal crisis was happening at a time of major political and ideological developments in the US. Privatisation “came to occupy a very important place on the political agenda of the New Right.”[44] Logan states that “by the 1980s, taxpayers had begun to revolt and a presidential candidate [Reagan] with a platform of ‘getting the government off our backs’ was elected with popular support. This was also a time of growing interest in privatisation….”[45] Baldry refers to the comment by a US official on the political ethos of the day: ‘by the second Reagan term, officials took to joking that virtually any proposal could become…policy if it carried the label “privatisation’.”[46]

--- Quote ---[31] Group 4 is currently in the process of merging with British firm Securicor, which runs the only private prison in Wales.
[32] McDonald et al Private Prison in the United States: An Assessment of Current Practice, Abt Associates Inc, Cambridge, MA, 1998, p 7.
[33] Donahue J. D, The Privatization Decision, Basic Books Inc, New York, 1989, p 153.
[34] McDonald D and Patten C, Governments’ Management of Private Prisons, Abt Associates Inc, Cambridge MA, 2003, p 3.
[35] McDonald et al (1998), Note 32, p 8.
[36] Logan, Note 15, p 10.
[37] McDonald et al (1998), Note 32, p 8.
[38] Harding R, ‘Prison Privatisation in Australia: A Glimpse of the Future’, (1992) 4(1) Current Issues in Criminal Justice 9 at 12.
[39] This phrase comes from Ryan M and Ward T, Privatization and the Penal System: The
American Experience and the Debate in Britain, Open University Press, 1989.
[40] McDonald and Patten (2003), Note 34, p 1.
[41] McDonald et al (1998), Note 32, p 5 and Austin and Coventry (1999), Note 30, p 183.
[42] McDonald and Patten (2003), supra, p 2.
[43] McDonald et al (1998), supra, p 5.
[44] Ryan and Ward (1989), Note 39, p 1.
Logan (1990), Note 15, p 3-4.
[46] Baldry E, ‘USA Prison Privateers; Neo-colonists in a Southern Land’, in Moyle P, Private Prisons and Police: Recent Australian Trends, Pluto Press Australia, 1994, p 129.
--- End quote ---

Yet more to come!

Private prisons information kit bt the  people's justice alliance

Private Prison In Australia -Trends & Issues PDF by   AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE


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