Monday, March 09, 2009

National's radical private prison agenda

Last election, the John Key-led National Party ran on a platform of careful centrism. Neo-liberal radicalism and ruthless free market policies were all in the past, they claimed. Instead, they would be largely continuing the policies of then then-government, though with a few tweaks here and there, and of course with a new face at the top.

Today, with the news that they are planning to contract out the management of existing prisons to the private-sector, it should be clear that they lied.

This is not the careful experimentation and assessment of private management, a few prisons privatised "on a case by case basis" they suggested before the election. Neither is it being done to remedy failings in the Department of Corrections, though of course they will present it that way. Instead, it is the mass-privatisation of a core coercive function of the state, done for purely ideological reasons: to match National's 90's mantra of "private good, public bad". And to reward their donors and cronies, of course. Looting the state again...

And just to top it all off, their preferred bidder seems to be The Geo Group - previously known as Wackenhut, a company whose US-based private prisons and boot camps were infamous for rape, beatings, and brutalisation. And that was from the guards. In Australia, they ran the desert concentration camps for John Howard's "whites only" refugee policy - camps which were basically pits of neglect marked by suicides, gang-rapes, and widespread abuse. Then there's the regular overbilling scandals. In Los Angeles, they've been barred from future city contracts for widespread discrimination, poor labour practices, and incompetence. In Texas, they've been indicted for murder. And the National Party thinks they are not only fit to operate in this country, but the sort of company we should entrust the safety of New Zealanders to? No thanks.