Written By: - Date published: 9:36 am, July 23rd, 2015 - 69 comments
Categories: Judith Collins, national, national/act government, Politics, privatisation, Public Private Partnerships, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: kelvin davis, nick evans, peseta sam lotu-iiga, serco
National’s ideological blindspot is that it believes that private enterprise is better than the state, every time. Recent news about Serco suggests very strongly that this is not so.
The privatisation of Auckland’s remand prison system was based on the premise that private enterprise can do just as well as the Corrections Department but more cheaply and with improved results. National has talked up Serco for quite a while.
Before her unfortunate fall from grace then Minister of Corrections Judith Collins said this about Serco’s appointment to run Auckland’s remand prison:
The appointment of Serco as the contract manager for Mt Eden/ACRP will bring in new ideas and international best practice which will benefit the entire corrections sector.
Serco has a strong track record in managing prisons. I’m confident that the company will bring the high standards of professionalism, safety, rehabilitation and security expected by the Government to Mt Eden/ACRP.
Judith may wish to review her confidence. The treatment of Nick Evans suggests that the prison is neither safe nor secure.
Kelvin Davis has done sterling work on the issue and yesterday had a National Minister as compromised on an issue as I have ever seen. Peseta Sam Lotu Iiga was literally on the ropes. He was clearly dodging when he answered the question about when he first knew about Nick Evans’ dropping by answering a completely different question about when he learned about Evans’s death and looked really awkward. Chris Hipkins was rightfully upset at Carter’s protection of the Minister.
But the Government’s denials are looking desperate. In yet another case of see no evil the Government’s standard response is that the various allegations of fights, drug and alcohol taking and possession of cellphones all backed up by physical evidence are “unproven”. From Stuff:
Under fire Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga insisted on Wednesday the claims were unproven but admitted he had heard “rumours and allegations” about the death.
He was unable to say when he first heard those rumours but confirmed no action had been taken to refer the matter to police.
“[There was] Kelvin Davis’s allegation about this during the week but I’ve heard all sorts of rumours about this death and I’ve said to my officials ‘get to the bottom of it, let’s have an inquiry, an investigation’.”
Lotu-Iiga said any decision on a police investigation may be dependent on the outcome of a coroner’s inquiry and investigation by the chief prisons inspector.
Serco and the minister have both denied any knowledge of a practice called “dropping” – and say the first they heard about it was this week.
But it has now emerged that Lotu-Iiga was grilled about the practice by Davis at a parliamentary select committee hearing weeks ago.
A transcript of proceedings show Lotu-Iiga was told by Davis: “There’s this guy that passed away recently…apparently he had a ruptured lung. I’ve asked ‘how do you get a ruptured lung? It’s often from a high impact collision and there’s accusations that prisoners have been thrown off balconies and then they’re getting transferred out of Mt Eden correctional facility.”
Asked on Wednesday about that transcript, Lotu-Iiga appeared to have no recollection of the exchange.
And an allegation has been made that news of a riot has been hushed up. Again from Stuff:
There are also allegations of a riot that was hushed up – which Lotu-Iiga also denied on Wednesday.
But he confirmed there had been an “incident” which required the Corrections “advance response team” to enter Mt Eden and take control.
“They [the prisoners] were barricading themselves in with hoses….ultimately the prisoners gave up and it was dealt with.”
He rejected suggestions Serco had failed to report it as a riot because that would have incurred financial penalties.
The basic problem is that Serco’s business model is to save costs by having lower staff levels than state run prisons. In state prisons there is a requirement of having one guard for every 15 prisoners. In Serco the standard requirement is one for every 23 prisoners but if a guard is ill there is not necessarily any cover. This Radio New Zealand post from November last year indicates that Corrections Association president Bevan Hanlon has witnessed prison wings with one staff member supervising 90 prisoners.
The article also suggests that Lotu Iiga’s claims that ACRP’s performance was good is not correct.
Figures obtained by Radio New Zealand show that in the 12 months to June there were 139 fights between prisoners and 26 assaults on guards.
There were 141 prisoner assaults in 2013 and 149 in 2012. There were also 39 assaults on guards in the 12 months to June 2013, and 22 attacks in 2012.
Mt Eden has the capacity to house 966 prisoners. By comparison, Christchurch Prison has 926 inmates and reported 83 assaults last year.
The Corrections Association and the Public Service Association, which both represent prison officers working at Mt Eden prison, said the figures proved what they had long been saying: that there were simply not enough staff to keep themselves and inmates safe.
The stench of a coverup is strong and Serco’s continued involvement in our Corrections System has to be questioned. Despite a young man dying of an injury consistent with trauma police have not as yet been asked to investigate the death. Lotu-Iiga is all at sea trying to explain why he has made the most basic of inquiries. And why someone was transferred out of Serco’s custody clearly while suffering from life threatening injuries needs full and proper investigation.