A call for prisons to be managed by Govt, not by Serco or Iwi

By Harata Brown

As protesters gathered outside Mount Eden Prison in Auckland to call out to the Government to end prisons being managed by private companies like Serco, the debate whether iwi should manage prisons just went up another notch as Labour's Corrections Spokesman and others came out strongly opposing the idea.

About 100 protesters headed the call to end Serco's managerial services in prisons throughout New Zealand and amongst them was Labour's Corrections Spokesman, Kelvin Davis.   .

"Serco's contract needs to be ripped up and they need to be kick out of New Zealand. They have no place here in NZ to run our prisons", said Davis.

Sina Brown-Davis of Te Wharepora Hou, a collective of wāhine Māori and indigenous women who strive to be a pro-active voice on relevant issues says the protest highlights the mismanagement of privately run prisons. 

"We brought up the disgusting human rights records, the fraudulent management and no body wanted to listen. So I feel that the resent events that have gone down have vindicated the stance activists have made about Serco".

Protesters claim that Serco has a 10-year contract to manage Mount Eden Prison that cost $300mil and an even longer contract with Wiri Prison based in South Auckland which they claim stands as a 25-year contract.

The organiser of the protest John Palethorpe says that prisons need to be returned to the public so that prisons are accountable and transparent.

"Prisons are a public service and when they don't work properly, it's the public that suffers. If you create an environment in a prison that is brutalizing rather than a safer one in which people can rehabilitate, then you are going to increase the chances of re-offending", said Palethorpe. 

Reporter Harata Brown spoke to many Māori who were present and said that many believe that prisons should not be administrated or managed by iwi. 

Davis said, "It's the Crown that prosecutes the offenders and send them to prison, it's the Crown's role to ensure their safety and look after them". 

Marama Davidson, a former employee of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission also supported Davis's position. 

"The iwi's responsibilities do not lie with managing prisons, the role of iwi is to provide restorative justice programs, to empower the communities and health initiatives", said Davidson.

Signatures were gathered at the protest with the intent to present a petition in support to end privately managed prisons to the Minister of Corrections.