Touting for prison business?

Cameron Slater makes some good point ion his post TIME FOR NATIONAL TO STOP REACTING TO UNION LEAKS, AND TAKE CONTROL:

This Serco hit has been long in the making, and once again, TV3 and the Herald acting as Dirty Media are at the forefront of the Dirty Politics hit to assist Labour.

It’s now forced the Prime Minister onto the stage and he’s taken a position that Serco is going to be history if it is found to be incompetent.

Just what the Union wants to hear.

Because they, and TV3, the Herald and Labour have a long list of incidents to work through.

If that happens what’s the bet they will be all targeting Serco managed prisons.

But here is the thing…if Labour cared so much about the care of prisoners why have they sat for so long on this information while more prisoners got injured…and why did they lie and make up stories when the truth is bad enough.

This could be tough on Davis, he has been trying to raise attention but was until recently seemingly ignored by the Government.

Kelvin Davis’ claims regarding one prisoner are completely false but we haven’t heard the media baying for his apology have we?

I don’t think it’s been proven one way or the other yet.

But the problem for Labour is this…no one cares. I challenge the media to find someone on the streets of Auckland who give a flying fig about whether or not some prisoner got the bash inside.

Prison welfare is a real problem not just at Serco but in prisons around the country. See Government is Hiding the Truth Behind the Serco Debate. But in that post Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara makes these points:

  • Prisons are the way they are because the public is largely uninvolved, and is not actually interested in what goes on inside.
  • Most of the general public don’t actually care about what happens to prisoners – they get what they deserve … unless violence is put in the public face, as in the recent Serco revelations.

So Slater may well be right on that. The he finishes with:

If Serco were smart they’d be hiring their own Dirty Politics crew to counter the unions.

Sounds like he’s touting for business.

Prison overcrowding, Springhill, worse than Mt Eden

Someone with inside experience considers there are bigger problems with the New Zealand prison system than Serco and Mt Eden.

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, who describes himself as ‘Former political prisoner of Spring Hill Corrections Facility’, details serious issues and claims that avoidable problems are mostly caused by overcrowding.

What I want to discuss here is my experience in Spring Hill and to some extent in the remand prisons in relation to the current public outcry about the standard of the Serco private run prison because the Serco debate is diverting attention from the atrocious standard of management in state run prisons.

On getting the message out about overcrowding:

There is no real means for prisoners to get the message out to the general public. They are forbidden internally from talking to journalists. The internal process of escalating these issues is nothing short of a whitewash and cover-up, and prisoners WILL experience prejudice for putting in official complaints.

For this reason, some prisoners in units higher up the hill from where I was began planning in January 2013 what is now known as the Spring Hill Riot which took place later that year. There haven’t been many full blown riots in NZ prisons. A couple of riots in the 1960s, one in 2004, and the one at Spring Hill in 2013.

Typically the cover up system kicked in with the then minister immediately calling it gang related, and the final report whitewashed the riot as being frivolous. But let me be clear, the initial report that this was gang related, and the final report putting the riot down to home-made alcohol was a total, utter, whitewash.

The intention of that riot was to raise the issue of overcrowding I have detailed, and a recent UN report confirmed.

This is the number one issue prisoners have in Spring Hill, it is the only issue they want fixed (even though I will provide what I believe are fixes for all of the above except prison justice), and I promised them that when I had completed my parole period, I would get this message out to you all.

He concludes:


The UN Committee Against Torture actually identified these three areas I addressed in its latest report to the New Zealand Government, which the current minister of Corrections has soundly rejected.

Among other things, the report identified overcrowding, inadequate health services and over-representation of Maori in prisons.

Now you all have a better idea that all of that is true and have some ideas of how to fix this without building any new prisons.

These measures only address what the Justice System and Corrections can do to fix this issue.

You will always have high levels of crime and gangs while your society is so unfair to the less fortunate.

Get over it or do something about it.

Your call…

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara
Former political prisoner of Spring Hill Corrections Facility

It’s worth reading the whole post. All MPs should read the full post.

Our prison problems are far bigger than Mt Eden and Serco. This isn’t a surprise, but politicians need to be pressured into addressing things – the Government in particular should take note but Opposition parties could also do far better by  drawing attention to the whole problem, not just things that suit them to complain about for political gain and on ideological grounds.

Prison violence concerns beyond Serco and Mt Eden

There are sufficient concerns about alleged violence at Mt Eden prison and about the private management of the prison by Serco to prompt the Department of Corrections to temporarily take over management of the prison.

That seems fair enough.

But there are potentially wider issues. While Labour MP Kelvin Davis has successfully publicised this and has got a result one could wonder about the timing of bringing this up in Parliament, at a time that Labour were facing considerable embarrassment.  If it was designed to divert some of the political heat then it’s also been successful.

But the spotlight on one privately run prison has major political ideological implications. Labour have used this to try and discredit privatisation in general.

But what they haven’t done is make a case that this one prison is significantly worse than any other prison.

Many of the most violent people in New Zealand are in prisons, so it will be difficult to make them violence free zones.

Peter Dune put this media release out yesterday.

24 July 2015

Prison Violence Should Be Eliminated Wherever It Occurs

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne wants a strong focus on eliminating violence in all prisons.

“The current allegations about what has been happening at the SERCO run Mt Eden prison are appalling, and SERCO needs to be held to account.

“However, it is fatuous and naïve to suggest that violent attacks on prisoners occur only in privately-run prisons, and that the state-rune system is free of such behaviour.

“The sad and unacceptable truth is that violence is an endemic feature of prison sub-culture across the system, and has been forever,” he says.

Mr Dunne says the overall focus of government policy has to be on ending prison wherever it occurs, not just Mt Eden.

“Otherwise, the current campaign looks much more like part of the ongoing opposition to privately-run prisons, than a genuine effort to eliminate prison violence across the entire prison system, “ he says.

Perhaps Labour could now pressure the Government into a wider investigation into prison violence.

Then we would find out whether it’s the private running of prisons that’s the problem or not.

If Labour are not interested in a wider investigation them it could be assumed their motives are more political than concerned about reducing prison violence.

Mt Eden and Ministerial corrections

The more that comes out about Mt Eden and Serco’s management the worse it looks for all concerned.

The Minister of Corrections has had to make a few corrections, and is likely to have to do a lot of correcting of the private prison model and management.

That’s if he doesn’t get an early release and the PM corrects his Cabinet line up.

And there’s the potential for worse to come.

Serco/Fight Club a bad look

Aspects of the prison fight club stuff looks quite bad. How bad depends on what are facts and what might be a political beat up.

Is it out of the ordinary prison crap?

Has it just started since Serco took over management?

Does it only happen in Mt Eden?