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Local mayor laments end of privately-run prisons in Queensland

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All of Queensland’s prisons are again run at taxpayers’ expense after a Crime and Corruption Commission report criticised jails being run by “profit-driven” organisations, but the move has upset at least one local mayor who does not see a reason for the change.

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Two privately run prisons were flagged to return to public hands in the wake of the 2018 report, with the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre near Gatton the last to make the switch.

Having a single operating model across the state was important to reach high standards in prison services, Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan said.

“The government took the view that the best operating model for all centres in Queensland was public operation,” he said on Wednesday.

“Public operation because of our staffing model, public operation because of consistency, but also public operation because we believe that is the model which delivers the best outcomes for employees, for the community and for those who are offenders in custody.”

However, Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan, who was not invited to the minister’s press conference, has spoken out against the change, saying the company that ran the prison, Serco, did an “amazing job”.

Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan. Image: ABC

She said Serco was careful to ensure the prison maintained connections with the community, exhibiting prisoners’ art at the local gallery and acting as partners in “exceptionally collaborative” ventures with the council.

She said the female prisoners she had spoken to had said that Serco’s management was good and that some of them were worried about the change.

“I personally have concerns about what that transition may look like and I hope there’s not too many changes,” she told ABC radio.

“I really pray that it will be what they have said it will be but we’ll wait and see.”

However the mayor has championed the announced $618 million expansion of the facility, currently housing about 300 women prisoners, to include a men’s prison by 2023.

The state’s latest budget included $320 million to go toward expansion of the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre to increase prison capacity.

The 2018 CCC report said the two prisons run by multinational, profit-driven corporations had their own ethical climate and “tone at the top”.

“This marketised approach, where prisons are operated by private, profit-driven organisations, disconnects the state from direct responsibility for the delivery of privately operated prisons,” the report said.

“This model creates challenges for the state in ensuring prisoners detained in privately operated facilities are treated humanely and have appropriate access to programs and services.”

The same report found the entire prison system was overcrowded and susceptible to corruption, citing instances of staff supplying drugs or weapons to inmates, colluding to avoid searches and coaxing prisoners to bash fellow inmates.

-with AAP

 

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