Friday, September 25, 2009

Reported back

The Law and Order Committee has reported back [PDF] on the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill. The bill allows the contracting out of prisons - a core coercive function of the state - to the private sector. In the process, it also effectively contracts the government out of the OIA in regards to these prisons. While the select committee has made some minor amendments in this area - for example private prisons are now bound by the Public Records Act - the core problem of lack of public and Parliamentary oversight is retained. Rather than being constantly scrutinised by and answerable to parliament and the public, prisons will be irregularly "monitored" by the Department of Corrections, and their accountability limited to whether their contract is renewed or not. When we're talking about people's basic liberties - and in some cases, their lives - that's simply not good enough. Without that constant oversight, private prisons will be driven by the profit motive to cut costs, reduce staff numbers, and ultimately compromise the safety of prisoners, staff, and the public. It has happened overseas, and it will happen here.

This is a terrible bill. But no doubt it'll be rammed through its remaining stages under urgency the moment the House resumes.