Yesterday Tane did an excellent post speculating on links between the Sensible Sentencing Trust and GEO Group. GEO Group derived from the notorious Wackenhut Corrections and it now wants to run privately run and publically funded prisons in NZ. In the US, the GEO Group supports organizations preaching almost exactly the messages as the SST does here.
What has been really intriguing was the reaction (or rather the lack of it) from the supporters of the Sensible Sentencing Trust in the blogosphere. The only response has been a press release from Garth McVicar. This interesting document contains the usual attack lines on The Standard culled from the wingnut sites. Perhaps he should read our About which clearly states what type of site this is, the diversity of opinion of the writers, and who funds it. That way he will avoid the earlier gaffs by Bill English on that subject.
The few points in the press release, that do not relate to our site, carefully avoid the question of funding of the Sensible Sentencing Trust. It looks like badly written classic PR misdirection.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust is funded by public donations and receives no government funding.
It doesn’t state that they have or have not received any donations from GEO Group because their ‘public’ donations are not available to public scrutiny. They get donations received from the ‘public’, which could include donations from GEO Corp.
They even had the audacity to suggest that someone should ask who was paying my salary.
Tane didn’t even mention who was paying for Garth McVicar, just the funding of the Sensible Sentencing Trust in relation to private prison operators.
This press release raises even more questions about the role of the Sensible Sentencing Trust and its underlying financial support than it clears. It would have been easy for Garth to simply say that they have not received donations from private prison operators. That was not done, which makes the silence on this subject extremely interesting.
So I’ll reiterate the points and questions that Tane raised that the SST should answer …
The extremely well funded and media savvy Sensible Sentencing Trust has come to dominate our public discussion on law and order in recent years but they’ve steadfastly refused to reveal where their funding is coming from. Their policy platform of ‘truth in sentencing’ and ‘three strikes’ matches ALEC’s right down to the rhetoric.
As we’ve pointed out in the past, the SST has gone to such lengths to hide their funding that they’ve publicly refused to comply with the Electoral Finance Act and have even declined to register under the Charities Act despite the tax benefits, because doing so would force some transparency over who’s paying the bills.
In the interests of democracy, now would be the time to start putting some hard questions to Garth McVicar about whether his organisation has received any funding or help from GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America or any other private prison company or interest group.
These are legitimate questions to ask a lobby group that is pushing for changes in public policy and therefore public funding. Garth McVicar should answer those questions unequivocally and without the deliberate ambuigity of his last press release. If not, then perhaps the NACT government should ask them of their SST member David Garrett. The formation of public policy should be done in a transparent way, and not distorted by the private interference of a beneficary of those policy changes.