10 Mar 2009

Maori Party in favour of private prisons

6:14 am on 10 March 2009

The Maori Party supports Government moves to allow private companies to again bid to run prisons in New Zealand.

The last time a prison was run privately was in 2000 when the contract to run the Auckland central remand prison went to an Australian company.

The Labour Government cancelled the deal in 2005.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says the remand prison was well-run during that time.

A former prison inmate, now an expert on prisons, Greg Newbold, agrees.

Contrary to union claims, Dr Newbold, now an associate professor at Canterbury University, says the Auckland remand prison was well-run by its Australian contractors.

He says he's visited privately run prisons in Australia and the United States and has been impressed.

Dr Newbold says private companies don't tolerate the sort of entrenched failures of policy and management seen in public prisons. He says accountability is key to how private companies run prisons.

Corrections Association national president Beven Hanlon acknowledges the current penal system does not work well and also says there needs to be more accountability.

However, he says private contractors are not the answer and prison managers should be more accountable for their mistakes.