Serco incompetence should put a halt to Wiri

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, June 7th, 2012 - 10 comments
Categories: accountability, prisons, privatisation, Public Private Partnerships - Tags:

A year in to its 10-year, $300 million contract, and Serco is making a real hash of running Mt Eden Prison. A second escape this week, along with two late releases, failure to meet drug testing targets and failure to report as agreed. And these are mostly only remand prisoners it’s dealing with. The Government is spending millions just monitoring this failed experiment.

And now we’re going to close down regional prisons and spend $900m on an unneeded prison at Wiri for these clowns to run?

10 comments on “Serco incompetence should put a halt to Wiri”

  1. hellonearthis 2

    That’s so John Keys philosophy, where you setup something and then bet on it failing.
    Hedge funds you just can’t loose.

  2. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    The Wiri prison is only unneeded if we are to keep open the countrys oldest prisons.

    As well, the capital cost of the new prison is ‘off the books’ while state owned prisons have to pay a capital charge back to the government for the value of the site.

    By the magic of government accounting this is seen as ‘savings’

  3. saniac 4

    This is just the stuff that’s been in the news. If you talk to people who work in Corrections, there’s even more bungling that hasn’t been reported.

  4. I come back to the point I’ve made before in debates on private prisons – state-run prisons are equally inefficient, incompetent and uncaring. For example:

    Mr Farmer alleges several [state run] prison officers thought he was “bunging it on for drugs”, and laughed at him as he lined up for Panadol.

    It was not until he was gravely ill and rushed to Royal Perth Hospital on April 14 that Mr Farmer saw a doctor.

    “The last week was like living in hell. My body was burning and I still kept asking the officers to see a doctor. I didn’t see a doctor at all in Hakea,” Mr Farmer said…

    “I kept going to the nurse every day but all they gave me was some bandages and Panadol…

    …the flesh around Mr Farmer’s thumb and a knuckle was dead and had to be removed. He was also suffering a severe infection that was affecting his organs and his weight had dropped to about 50kg, the lightest he’s ever been as an adult.

    Mr Farmer hopes his thumb and index finger can be saved, but there is a “50/50 chance” both will be amputated.

    Because that’s not atypical of the state prison system in WA, prisoners are lining up to put their names down for the one Serco-run prison in WA, and even petition to remain there, in medium security, rather than be transferred out to a state-run minimum security facility.

    Part of the answer lies in doing exactly what the government has done – make prison management directly accountable for outcomes. Unfortunately the only way any government has of doing that is to privatise the prison system, because it’s simply impossible to link public service prison staff pay to performance for a number of reasons.

    Even more effective is a fearless and independent inspectorate which can make an unannounced inspection of any prison – public or private – and to talk to anyone whether management, staff or prisoner, with complete confidentiality; to publish it’s findings publicly and – this is the most imprtant bit – with the authority to demand change and see that it is made.

    If we’re truly concerned about the wellbeing of prisoners we should spend less time debating who owns the facility and focus instead on making sure it is run in a way that places prisoner welfare as its first priority. That’s possible under the right system whether or not the facility is privately operated.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      The private prison will cost more though as it has to turn a profit. Which means that all the solutions need to be implemented with government prisons.

      • @DTB: But then how does one change the entrenched culture and resistance to change endemic in government prisons?

        Because an individual officer can’t make much difference to a prison’s culture, it’s unfair to introduce performance pay for state prison staff; whereas a private prison operator can be penalised and rewarded.

        In an ideal world the state would see its first duty as the welbeing of all its citizens, even those in prison. That would then inform a positive culture within prisons. Sadly that’s not the case and never will be, not in NZ nor elsewhere. There are no positives for politcians in promoting the welfare of prisoners; indeed they’d be seen as hypocritical in showing concern for a subclass they repeatedly publicly vilify so as to garner votes.

        I wish it were otherwise, but there’s only two motivations that would work in changing things in prisons – altruism and greed, and the first cannot be found within the system.

        The only way I’ve ever seen prison conditions improve is when a private operator cops a “fine” for a failure.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1

          But then how does one change the entrenched culture and resistance to change endemic in government prisons?

          By actively encouraging that change.

          Because an individual officer can’t make much difference to a prison’s culture, it’s unfair to introduce performance pay for state prison staff; whereas a private prison operator can be penalised and rewarded.

          We don’t rely on individuals but on changing the whole prison staff up to and including firing people who just don’t have the right personality.

          There are no positives for politcians in promoting the welfare of prisoners; indeed they’d be seen as hypocritical in showing concern for a subclass they repeatedly publicly vilify so as to garner votes.

          Which means we need to change the politicians and us to being less vindictive.

          The only way I’ve ever seen prison conditions improve is when a private operator cops a “fine” for a failure.

          Prisons have been improving over the last hundred years without private operators and they’ve always required change be brought in from the outside which again comes down to us and the politicians.

          • Rex Widerstrom 5.1.1.1.1

            We don’t rely on individuals but on changing the whole prison staff up to and including firing people who just don’t have the right personality.

            This.

            Now just find me a government with the testicular fortitude to do so (and face down the unions in the process, no doubt).

        • McFlock 5.1.1.2

          It’s not performance pay that’s needed, it’s performance management. Training. Supervision. HR processes.
                 

          At the most basic level, if the government can find the will to administer fines and supervise private prison management, why can’t it manage the performance of the prisons it runs itself? 

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