Corrections escapes but punishes Serco

The NZ Herald reported today (February 21) that Serco, the operator of Mt Eden prison has been fined $150,000 after a prisoner escaped. Serco is an international conglomerate based in Britain and given the contract to run the Mt Eden prison.

The Corrections Department has carried out a review of security after notorious inmate Aaron Forden escaped from the prison in the early hours of October 10, 2011. Corrections and Serco say both operational security and the physical security of the building infrastructure have now been enhanced.

Department of Corrections Chief Executive, Ray Smith, says a portion of the payment to Serco for the management of Mount Eden prison is performance-related and that it’s appropriate to levy a financial penalty for the escape. It seems that Corrections is not only responsible for administering punishments imposed on offenders by the courts, it is also responsible for punishing its approved private prison partner.

What about Corrections’ performance?

Does this mean that if anyone escapes from a prison run by the Corrections Department, they will pay the Government $150,000? Of course not.  What a shame. Two escaped in the last 24 hours – one  from Rangipo prison and the other from hospital in Chrischurch while undergoing medical treatment. It seems that between five and ten prisoners escape every year so if Corrections had to pay up every time, it would be penalised  about $1.5 million a year.

Shouldn’t  Corrections also be performance related for its (lack of ) success at rehabilitating and reintegrating prisoners.  70% of prisoners re-offend and 52% are back in prison within five years; nothing the Department has done it in its entire history has reduced recidivism one iota. Shouldn’t the Department be required to pay back $150,000 to the government every time a prisoner re-offends and returns to prison. That would buck up their performance.

Maybe that’s too much to ask. With that level of accountability, given its current record, the Department would have to pay back its $1 billion budget every year.

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