Sack Serco (and the Minister in charge)

In the weeks since claims of a prisoner dying at Mount Eden Prison were made in Parliament, we have come to see several things are obviously wrong with the relationship between the Crown and Serco, who are contracted to run the prison. We have also come to see a clod of mud sticking to the political face of Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.

Serco have much to answer for with the mismanagement of Mount Eden Prison. So too does the Minister in charge, Mr Lotu-Iiga, whose incompetence proves he is about as fit to hold a Ministeral Warrant as Serco are to be running Mount Eden Prison. But for a Government that says accountability to New Zealand and New Zealanders is a high priority, it seems to be a rather low priority in this particular instance. A quick look at its record managing the prison raises some serious questions:

  • A prisoner dies in custody and no one takes responsibility as Police were not called to investigate
  • Video footage of prisoners having organized fights is recorded on cellphones despite them being banned and expensive jammers installed to stop data being transmitted to social media networks
  • Video footage of a Serco guard being involved in an organized fight is leaked

Given the record of Serco it is clear that it has a problem upholding a contract to run the Mount Eden facility, and that it is not paying due regard to safety. The suggestion made by the Minister that prisons are for violent people is no justification for allowing violent acts to be committed, in effect condoning the type of activity that brought many of its inhabitants to Mount Eden Prison in the first place. The same suggestion also ignores another fact: Prisons are corrective places where people who have committed serious crime are supposed to be learning to acknowledge their wrong doing, and turn their characters around – having people coming back into the community in a more damaged state than that which they originally exited means that the prison did not do its job.

Privatization of prisons will not reduce the prison population and mismanaging such facilities creates a culture that encourages bigger problems. Issues such as organized crime, corruption of officers – something that might already be happening at Mount Eden – ends up costing the State and tax payers more resources unnecessarily. No Minister of the Crown reasonably wanting to keep his/her job should allow this to happen.

It is clear that there is some substance to the Green Party allegations that privatizing New Zealand prisons is not working and should be rolled back.

My message to the Minister in charge is clear: Sack Serco and restore Mount Eden to state control, where it should have been in the first place.


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