Photo Clive Lowe / South Burnett Times
Photo Clive Lowe / South Burnett Times Clive Lowe

UNION: Profits over rehabilitation in Grafton jail

THE NSW Teachers Federation has no doubt the new Grafton jail will be a profit-driven business, to the detriment of prisoners' chances to better themselves.

Corrective Services has contracted accountancy firm KPMG to review its options for prison education.

Three options are on the table.

The State Government could maintain the status quo: about 150 full-time educators working exclusively with inmates, with vocational training supplemented by TAFE teachers.

Or the entire prison education network may be put out to tender to private training organisations.

Alternatively, a hybrid private-public model may be deemed the best choice for the state's seam-bursting correctional system.

Results from the review are still under wraps, but are expected to be made public this month.

NSWTF deputy secretary of post-school education Maxine Sharkey is heading up a campaign to preserve government-funded education.

"This is happening at the same time as a broader review in Corrective Services, looking at each individual jail meeting particular benchmarks," she said.

"If the jail itself doesn't meet benchmarks, it will be put up to tender.

"Lock, stock and barrel. Everything."

Corrections Minister David Elliott last month announced Sydney's John Morony Correctional Centre was the first prison offered for private tender - a "market-testing" exercise to give the government an idea of how much it should cost to run a jail.

The process will pit the public and private sectors against each other to see which can offer the best value.

"This reform will help deliver a prison system that accommodates more inmates, operates more efficiently, and has a greater focus on rehabilitation, without compromising safety and security," Mr Elliott said.

Ms Sharkey said the exercise was an opportunity "to fly the kite for privatisation".

"My concern is that as soon as you privatise something, the whole aim of the business is to make a profit," she said.

"What you want is repeat customers - it's an obscene way to look at it, but that's what prisoners will become.

"If you want to make money out of locking people up in prisons, what you want to do is cut the cost of keeping them and you want repeat customers.

"If it's a business, do you really want to stop your customers coming back?"

Ms Sharkey believed the new Grafton jail had next to no chance of being publicly funded when it opened in 2019.

"I would think that the jail in Grafton will immediately be a private prison," Ms Sharkey said. - ARM NEWSDESK



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