Further to Damien’s post on private prisons, the choice of Serco was sadly predictable. To be fair when it comes to private prison providers pickings are pretty bad, but Serco is right up there. Serco runs just about anything you care to think of- Light Rail, military support services, schools and health services. And the odd prison or two, in UK and Australia. Check out this video for a summary of their activities.
Several of the prisons are in the UK, where one in particular Ashfield Young Offenders Unit has been labelled the most violent prison in the UK. The Director-General of the UK Prisons Service said in 2002
I considered that the prison was unsafe for both staff and the young people
detained there and that urgent action was required.
Kilmarnock Prison is Scotland, also run by Serco was heavily criticised for its management, including the lack of basic education programmes. There have been reports of very poor treatment for patients, including a pregnant woman.
This of course follows on from the report last year that showed private prisons performing worse than public ones on a range of indicators.
In the end for me this is a matter of principle, but the experience overseas shows that far too often private prisons are associated with poor safety records, cutting corners and declining focus on programmes to aid rehabilitation.
In the course of writing this I came across this quote attributed to our Human Rights Commission. It bears repeating and sums up how I feel.
Punishment is a fundamental state power, carried out by government on behalf of the community. Such a central and significant power should be exercised wholly in the public interest taking into account the rights of all parties (victims, offenders etc) without regard to profit.