In May 2006, National Finance went into receivership owing more than 2000 investors about $21 million. In October, 2011 one of the former directors, Trevor Ludlow, was sentenced to five years and seven months in jail. He was found guilty of charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office relating to theft as a person in a special relationship. He was found to have breached the terms of the trust deed under which National Finance operated, personally defrauding investors of an estimated $3.5 million.
Since he was sentenced, Mr Ludlow has been held in Mt Eden, at the brand new purpose built prison for inmates on remand. Ludlow is not on remand but has been kept in Mt Eden because it’s close to court and he was still facing eight additional charges of misleading investors and making false financial statements.
“Nothing to do” in prison
Mr Ludlow pleaded guilty to those charges on December 13. During court proceedings, he broke down in tears complaining: “There is nothing to do in Mt Eden … it’s a horrible environment. It was awful to sit around all day with nothing to do. It’s terribly frustrating.” Ludlow said he had enrolled in a correspondence class but was not being allowed to do it in Mt Eden prison. He asked the judge to sentence him within the week because once sentencing takes place he will be moved to another prison.
Not surprisingly, there has been little sympathy for Mr Ludlow. The judge said: “I can’t help you. You’ve been found guilty and sentenced to jail.” Callers to talkback radio commentators were even more scathing and thought that Mr Ludlow was getting his just deserts.
Fair enough. Ludlow deserves to be in prison. But his comment that there is ‘nothing to do’ in Mt Eden prison contradicts earlier claims by Garth McVicar that the new Mt Eden prison is a ‘better environment’ and run like ‘Club Med’. Prisons are soul destroying environments with very little rehabilitation or work opportunities and Mt Eden is no different.
Bear in mind that Mt Eden prison is run by Serco – a private company in a private-public partnership with Government. When the contract was awarded in 2010, former Corrections Minister Judith Collins (now Minister of Justice), said Serco had a “strong track record in running jails, and would bring fresh ideas to the prison’s management. I’m confident that the company will bring the high standards of professionalism, safety, rehabilitation and security expected by the Government to Mt Eden/ACRP.”
Forced to sleep in toilets
Judith Collins failed to do her homework. Serco is not the squeaky clean company she claims it to be. At a Serco run prison in Britain, prisoners have been forced to sleep in toilets because of overcrowding. Prison inspectors uncovered the practice during an unannounced visit to Doncaster prison in 2008. The chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, said: “We were disappointed to find that two-person cells had been turned into three-person cells by placing a bed in the shared toilet.”
Two years earlier, the inspectorate criticised the company for “institutional meanness“ after finding there were inadequate mattresses, and many prisoners had no pillows, no toilet seats and nowhere to store belongings. The chief inspector branded conditions at Doncaster as “squalid and deteriorating”. Serco now runs four prisons in the UK. If the Wiri prison goes ahead and Serco gets that contract as well, it will operate two prisons in New Zealand.
Conditions in New Zealand are not much better; our prisons have become so overcrowded that Judith Collins decided to put inmates into shipping containers. These containers are quite small and some have two beds – and every cell has a toilet next to the bed. New Zealand prisoners are also ‘sleeping in the toilet.’
No rehab on remand
But let’s get back to Mr Ludlow who’s dying of boredom in Mt Eden. The Serco run Mt Eden prison was purpose built to hold prisoners on remand – those who have not yet been sentenced. Approximately 14,000 New Zealanders spend time on remand every year. The point is remand prisoners are not eligible to attend rehabilitation programmes because they have not yet been convicted of anything.
So it seems that Trevor Ludlow is being held in a remand prison even though he has already been convicted – but Serco is applying its (remand) rules which appear to prevent him from even starting a correspondence course – which Serco doesn’t even have to pay for because Ludlow’s organising it himself. Is this just another example of ‘institutional meanness’? Ludlow needs to keep himself occupied as he almost certainly won’t be eligible to attend rehabilitation programmes in prison. This is because he’s in his 50s and (presumably) has no previous convictions – so will be classified at low-risk of re-offending. Only medium and high risk prisoners are allowed to attend rehabilitation.
So while Trevor Ludlow does not deserve much sympathy for the fact that he is in prison, his tearful comments to the judge about prison conditions in New Zealand should not be ignored. Mr Ludlow is currently in a prison run by a private company with a documented history of poor care and ‘institutional meanness’. Once he is sentenced on his current charges, he will be moved to a prison run by the Corrections Department – where he will also not be eligible to attend rehabilitation programmes. If he’s lucky, he just might get to do his correspondence course. But he’ll still be sleeping in the toilet.