Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Privatization undermines transparency

When National first floated its plans to privatize our prisons, I raised concerns that this would reduce transparency by putting the new, privatized prisons beyond the reach of the Official Information Act. It turns out that this is exactly what has happened. Serco - the government's chosen contractor for Mount Eden prison - is refusing to say how many guards it is employing, citing "security" and "commercial confidentiality". Which means that we are unable to tell if their staffing levels are adequate or safe.

And that's for a relatively uncontroversial inquiry. Imagine how much worse they'd be if people were trying to find out about, say, health and safety or prisoner abuse.

These are our prisons. We have a right to know what is going on inside them. It is vital to ensuring that they are operated safely and in accordance with the law. national's privatization has effectively stripped us of that right. And so instead of being able to see for ourselves, we have to take these things on trust, from a contractor with every interest in covering up their own failings.