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Privatisation of the prison industry: Wackenhut, GSL etc.

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Clear contracts crucial - Collins



Clear-cut agreements will be key to making any private prison management regime in New Zealand work, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

"We could cancel contracts when they come to term and not reappoint, which means there is a great deal of wish by the provider to comply and to do better than what the public service is providing."

A bill allowing private firms to bid to manage prisons was introduced into Parliament in March.

Collins spent last week in Australia examining that country's prison-management tendering system.

"One of the big issues that was pointed out to me was to make sure when we have our contracts with private management that those contracts should be extremely well managed and that there should be opportunities there for amendment as circumstances changed or issues arose," Collins said.

The minister visited four prisons: Port Phillip and the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Melbourne, and Borallon and Arthur Gorrie Correctional centres in Brisbane.

Port Phillip is a maximum security prison with room for 710 inmates operated by GSL Custodial Services, while the Metropolitan Remand Centre is a new maximum security facility managed publicly, but with a private company responsible for construction and maintenance.

Borallon is a 492-bed maximum/medium security prison managed by Serco Australia, and Arthur Gorrie is a 710-bed maximum security prison managed by GEO Group Australia.

"I was impressed that the privately managed prisons, despite their age and the harsh weather in Queensland, that they were spotlessly clean and well-maintained," Collins said.

"I was reasonably impressed with the level of care and attention that was clearly being paid; it's pretty hard to fake that sort of thing when someone is coming to visit."

Collins was impressed by Port Phillip, especially a wing for youth offenders and a unit for prisoners with intellectual impairments.

"The staff working there seemed to me to be particularly committed to what they were doing, and there was a feeling that despite this being a maximum security jail that it didn't feel at all unsafe or threatening."

There has been speculation iwi might bid to manage New Zealand prisons.

Collins said iwi might also be able to offer services to the Australian prison system.

"They (Australian prison managers) were keen to look at what we've been doing with Maori-focused units already.

"There are quite a few Maori in prisons in Queensland and New South Wales ... they were reasonably keen to look at any iwi involvement in New Zealand that might be able to be translated to iwi involvement in Australian prisons."


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