'Selling off prisons to big business is abhorrent.... assaults on officers increase, the welfare of inmates plummets and community security is compromised.'
Sydney, Australia (13 November 2008) - Correctional officers in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, have launched a campaign to oppose privatization of the state's prisons.
Led by the Public Service Association (PSA) of NSW, officers launched their campaign with a 24-hour strike and a large public rally.
The state has proposed selling the Parklea and Cessnock correctional centres as well as aspects of court security and prisoner escort. The move is to be completed within the next seven to nine months.
The decision forms part of workplace 'reform' strategies originally announced in August. While the government claims that the move is in response to escalating overtime payments, the union says the argument is being used as a distraction to cover cost-cutting.
"Of all public services, prisons are the last thing we should be selling off to massive overseas companies to make money from," John Cahill, the association's general secretary says.
"Private companies must turn a profit, and they will do that by reducing safety measures, training, staffing, rehabilitation programmes, health services and every other corner they can cut to reduce their bottom line. The message to the government from frontline prison officers is that this proposal would undermine security both within jails and in the broader community."
Prison privatization does not work
The decision by the government goes counter to a growing body of evidence that private prisons do not work.
In November of 2006, the Ontario government reversed a decision by former Tory premier Mike Harris to privatize adult correctional facilities. The contract the province had with a Utah-based company to operate the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) in Penetanguishene, the first private adult jail in Canada, was not be renewed when it expired.
After comparing the private operation of the facility to that of the publicly-run Central East Correctional Centre (CECC), the province found that the CECC performed better in key areas such as security, health care and reducing re-offending rates.
"Selling off prisons to big business is abhorrent. The international and interstate experiences show that when prisons are privatised assaults on officers increase, the welfare of inmates plummets and community security is compromised," Cahill says.
"Prison officers are seeking a clear indication from the NSW Government that privatisation is not on the agenda. The state must continue to take responsibility for people they put behind bars and protect the officers who get up every day and work with them."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring that our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE