Think big prisons fail | The Jackal

20 Mar 2012

Think big prisons fail

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Prison staff at a number of the country's jails look set to lose their jobs when a new privately run facility at Wiri near Auckland replaces several older jails.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed this morning that a number of older prisons would close, but stopped short of saying which ones or how many.

"We're going through the process of talking to the unions that are involved.''

Mr Key told Newstalk ZB that the financial impact the closures would have on local communities had been considered, but that overall it was in the best interests of the justice system not to keep them going.

Yesterday, reported:

Wellington's Mount Crawford Prison and prisons at New Plymouth and Invercargill are expected to close.

Wellington prison employs 35 officers, has a capacity of 120 minimum to high security men and was established in 1927. New Plymouth Prison employs 65 officers and accommodates 112 minimum to high-medium security prisoners. It was originally an army hospital in the 1860s that was converted to a prison later that decade. Invercargill prison employs 75 custodial staff with a capacity of 180 minimum to low-medium male prisoners and was first established in 1910 and run as a borstal until 1981.

So that's at least 175 definite jobs for the chop and who knows how many support staff with 412 prisoners relocated to the yet to be built prison in Auckland that will be able to detain 1060 people. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for old prisons closing, but the alternative National is offering leaves much to be desired.

Yesterday, No Right Turn reported:

So, having signed contracts for a private prison in Auckland, the government is now busy creating a guaranteed market for it, by closing down regional prisons. This way, they can shuffle those prisoners off to Auckland, pay their crony-contractor Serco to handle them, and wait for the corrupt political donations to roll in.

The corruption exhibited by National concerning their promotion of privatized prisons could not be starker. But the main problem is that there will be no overall benefit to the justice system at all. It will in fact be detrimental to the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners, something Labour Justice spokesman, Charles Chauvel hints at:

Prison beds are still needed, and smaller institutions, spread across New Zealand, are better than mega-facilities concentrated in a few centres. These reasons include risk management and rehabilitation, as well as their contribution to regional economies,'' Mr Chauvel said.

Why are regional prisons better than a think big prison you might ask? The main reason is that prisoners will become even more detached from their families by being relocated to Wiri, making it harder to develop good relationships and mend family ties. These things are an all important part of the rehabilitation process.

National is simply putting extra costs on those least able to afford it and setting back the progressive Regional Prisons Policy decades:

One of the aims of the project to build new prisons was to implement the Department’s Regional Prisons Policy. This policy was developed in 1997 and was based on research which suggests that locating prisoners as near to their home area as possible improves the chances of successful reintegration into society and reduces re-offending rates.

So does National have any intention of actually trying to decrease reoffending or are they just interested in jobs for the boys? Building Wiri is most definitely not in the best interests of the justice system, although it's obviously in the best interest of Fletchers, Serco and National's coffers.