Monday, 31 August 2015

Corporations spread their tentacles

Watch this first from the Artist Taxi Driver

Serco in New Zealand are running private prisons and want to spread their tentacles into rail. Their head, Tory and grandson of Winston Churchill, has just been in the country

Fight clubs, corrupt guards, prisoner beatings, rape, possibly a death, stand over tactics and a corporation that cooks its books to void punishment

Next set of Serco allegations to be worse

Stripping prisoners of their right to vote, abusing them and leaving them in poorly guarded environments where that abuse can become the norm should embarrass us. It will barely rate a mention during the Rugby World Cup coverage.

Serco eyes rail opportunities

30 August, 2015

Serco is looking at new opportunities in New Zealand, particularly in operating rail services chief executive Rupert Soames says.

The Serco boss does acknowledged recent controversy over his company's running of Mt Eden prison — where Corrections staff have stepped in to take over management — and an extended inquiry have to be worked through first.

"We are looking at rail services in particular, and also other opportunities, but we’ll see," Mr Soames said. "Let’s just get through this thing, because there is an issue of trust, and we have to go and satisfy people that we have responded correctly."

The UK-based Serco provides a range of services to governments, including rail, and there has been speculation it is interested in managing social housing in New Zealand.

In January, Serco was named as a rival to state-owned KiwiRail (the incumbent) in a tender to manager rail services in Wellington. The result tender, potentially worth hundreds of millions, will be announced later this year.

And in April, Auckland Transport said Serco was one of three companies it had invited to tender to operate passenger rail services from July 1, 2016 (the other two are Transdev Auckland - the incumbent - and KiwiRail).

On Friday, KiwiRail said it improved its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and asset impairments to $91 million in the year to June 30, 2015, 17% ahead of the previous financial year.

After depreciation and writedowns on the value of the rail network KiwiRail owns, the state-owned enterprise reported a net loss of $167 million for the year, a 33%  improvement on last year's loss.

KiwiRail is locked in negotiations with government ministers and the Treasury on initiatives to establish the national value of its operations, since it cannot be expected to make a profit in the long term because there is too little freight in New Zealand to fully cover the cost of the 4000km network of tracks.

RAW DATA: The Nation - Lisa Owen interviews Serco chief executive Rupert Soames
Watch the full interview here

Lisa Owen: Now, they used to be the biggest company no one had ever heard of, but it’s fair to say that’s no longer true for troubled outsourcing giant Serco. It’s being investigated over a raft of allegations at Mt Eden Prison, including fight clubs, contraband and underreporting of prisoner violence, and last week we revealed their interest in providing back-room services to those buying state houses. Now, we have repeatedly asked Serco for an interview this year, and each time we’ve been turned down, so hearing that the global CEO, Rupert Soames, was in New Zealand, we decided to track him down instead. Now, Mr Soames had a very busy day yesterday. He told me he met with Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga, Corrections boss Ray Smith and that he visited both Mt Eden and the new Serco-run prison at Wiri.

Rupert Soames: Clearly this is a major issue for Serco and for Mt Eden Prison, so I want to make that we are cooperating fully with all the investigations and making sure that people are getting all the information that they need. Some of the allegations are very serious and need to be taken very seriously.

What makes you think you should keep your contract?

Well, that will not be for us to decide. It’s going to be— clearly, there’s an investigation going on at the moment. There are, it has to be said, many good things that have happened at Mt Eden over the last four years. If you go and look at the rate of drug dependency, it is far lower—
But, Mr Soames, with the greatest of respect, there is video circulating showing serious fight clubs at that prison. A number of officers have been stood down in recent times for inappropriate behaviour. What is going on there?

Well, there is a full-scale investigation going on, being led independently by the Chief Inspector, overseen by the Ombudsman, with which we are cooperating in ourselves. We also have our own investigation going on, and we take these very seriously.
How can the New Zealand taxpayer trust your company?

I suggest what should happen is that we let the investigation run its course.
Given the breadth and volume of allegations – serious allegations – involving Mt Eden Prison, it’s got to be one of two things, doesn’t it? It’s got to be that there is incompetence in that prison on the part of your company, or you’re being wilfully blind and your employees have been wilfully blind?

I don’t think either of those two conclusions are the case. What I do know is the case is that as is entirely appropriate when serious allegations which we care about very much, let me just— just remind ourselves of the facts, okay, is that Mt Eden Prison under our ownership— sorry, ownership is the wrong word – under our direction of managing the prison has gone from being one of the worst-rated prisons in New Zealand to being one of the best.It’s certainly not one of the best.

No, no, no, no, no. Okay, so there are now questions saying what’s going on? There’s serious allegations which we take really seriously, which is one of the reasons that I’m here, and there is a proper investigation going on.
So how does your staff—?

And there are—
Sorry to interrupt you, but this is really important.

Of course it’s important.
How could your staff not know what was going on there when prisoners seem to have been willy-nilly filming themselves in fight clubs, dealing in contraband, smoking and drinking? How could this happen under the nose of your staff?

Well, it shouldn’t happen. There is contraband in prisons. I have to say that the rate of contraband in prisons in Mt Eden is actually pretty low.
You’re trying to justify the videos that we’ve seen…

I’m not trying to justify—
or minimise? Because that sort of sounds like that.
I’m not trying to minimise it in the slightest at all. That's one of the reasons why I've come here — to make sure that the investigations that the Chief Inspector and the Ombudsman are doing; that we are fully cooperating with them. We have our own investigations going on. We take it very seriously. Can I just say that we don't fire people on the basis of allegations. You know, I don't know which bit of the Magna Carta says that you go and fire people. You properly investigate. There's a professional investigation going on to sort those which are wild allegations from those which are truthful allegations.
The mere existence of the video shows…

It's shocking.
Yeah. How would you describe it?

Oh, shocking. Two things are shocking. It is shocking that fighting is going on inside the prison. It is also shocking that there are mobile phones in the prison. I have to say I don't believe that Mt Eden is the only prison in New Zealand or, indeed, in the world where mobile phones are.
But that in of itself, the existence of the video, in and of itself, shows that you've failed in your duties to properly manage that prison, doesn't it?

But I have to say that we live in a real world here in which, let me tell you, that you are going to put a lot of often very violent men together, there is fighting. I don't justify it. I don't condone it. I think that the idea... I'm very worried about the idea of the existence of fight clubs, and, clearly, there is too much violence. In fact, in Mt Eden the level of violence has in the past few years it has dropped a lot. It has now picked up, and one of our issues there is to find out why and what we can do, and more importantly, what we should be doing better to run that prison. You ask who is responsible. I am responsible. I am the chief executive of Serco, therefore, the buck stops with me. But I would say to the taxpayers of New Zealand is that what the facts that we know show, and it may turn out that the reporting has been wrong, that there is something going on, if the reporting has been correct, that what the taxpayers had in New Zealand is a situation where one of the worst-rated prisons has become one of the best-rated prisons. It's been rated 

exceptional. Now, there may questions about that. And it has also been done at a cost that is substantially lower...I think the thing is, also, opposition politicians have said you're at the top of the league table because you are cooking the books. What is your response to that allegation, because it's a serious one?

It's an incredibly serious allegation. Incredibly serious. I mean, the citizens of New Zealand and our customers have the right to expect that the numbers and the issues that we are reporting to them are correct. When I say correct, I don’t mean completely error-free, but we have been properly reporting. Can I remind you also that since we’ve had this contract, we’ve been closely monitored by the Department of Corrections. There are four monitors on site. This is not something that’s operating in an island in itself. I personally—that’s why I want to get to the bottom of these allegations. Either Mt Eden has improved greatly under our ownership, or it hasn’t. If it has, okay, then I think Serco should be should praised and say, ‘Well done, Serco.’ If it hasn’t, then we will have to bear the consequences of it. I’m completely clear about this, and people have to be able trust that we are reporting what is actually going on.
What level of confidence can you express in your senior staff at the prison? Can you say you are 100% confident that the senior staff in your prison have behaved appropriately and administered the contract as they should?

Look, I think what we need to see is to see the results of the investigations. Staff are experienced. They have been working very closely with the Department of Corrections. These are serious allegations. Saying that I have confidence or no confidence doesn’t actually help anything.
You can’t express confidence in your own senior staff—your own senior management at the prison?

I have confidence in the way they have been running the prison, subject to—we need to see the results of these serious allegations. I have to say, prison are places that allegations get made about, and quite rightly, they should be investigated properly, but it is not necessarily the case that each one of them is true.Serco runs a lot of services overseas outside of prison services. So what interest do you have in expanding the services that you offer in New Zealand? Because I understand that you have been looking at the state housing situation.

Yes, and other opportunities here. We are committed to New Zealand. We wish to be good citizens here. We are often—We are active in the area of government services, and part of what—the reason I want to be here is to make sure that we are dealing and responding appropriately here so that if the Government, at the end, is going to go, ‘actually, we think you’ve done  it okay’—can I just say one thing that’s absolutely certain is that whatever comes out of this report, they are going to show up failings; things that we could have done better. I absolutely know that. We are working already to go and improve what we do.
Are you looking at youth justice?

No. We are look—we are looking at rail services in particular, and also other opportunities, but we’ll see. Let’s just get through this thing, because there is an issue of trust, and we have to go and satisfy people that we have responded correctly.

Okay, so, thank you.
I really do appreciate your frankness and your time.

How long before we get this in this country?

Private Prisons Threaten To Sue States Unless They Get More Inmates For Free Labor

24 June, 2015

Freedom is apparently bad for business. That’s the message from the private prison industry which is threatening to sue states if they don’t start locking more people up.

The private prison companies, well-known for profiting off of incarceration and crime, is now saying that the state’s they have contracted with aren’t keeping up their end of the bargain. The private prisons rely on a certain number of inmates for free and virtually-free slave labor.
That labor is used for a variety of trades, including making uniforms for popular restaurants like McDonalds and Applebee’s. But if the private prisons don’t have enough inmates locked up then production goes down correlative with the decrease in free labor (i.e. slavery).
It comes as a surprise to many Americans, but slavery was never actually abolished in the United States. That’s not a metaphor, it’s a matter of careful reading of the 13th amendment to the Constitution. That amendment – often lauded for abolishing slavery – actually makes an exception for prisons. Slavery is still completely legal as “punishment for a crime.”
USA Today explains the following:
Ratified at the end of the Civil War, the amendment abolished slavery, with one critical exception: Slavery and involuntary servitude actually remain lawful “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” In other words, according to this so-called punishment clause, if you get pulled over with the wrong controlled substance in your trunk, there’s nothing in the 13th Amendment to ensure you can’t be considered a slave of the state.
The punishment clause was taken directly from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and reflected the belief of the time that hard work was essential to prisoners’ moral rehabilitation. But the language was also ambiguous enough to be grossly abused. Soon, the clause was being used to reinstitute slavery under another guise.
Consider that there are more African Americans behind bars today than there were enslaved at any given time in American history and it becomes clear how corporations got their “work around” to keep slavery 100% legal. This is nothing new. This is the way it has been since slavery was supposedly abolished.
Now, the private prison industries say the government isn’t keeping up their end contracts for this slave labor.
Those government agencies signed contracts guaranteeing a minimum occupancy or quota of prisoner-slaves
California guarantees that prisons will be filled to 70% capacity at all times. Arizona promises almost 100% occupancy.
With crime dropping, the private prison industry is losing money and they are none too pleased.
In order to avoid these lawsuits, judges will have to dish out extra-long maximum sentences – not because the defendant deserves it, but because the state wants to keep these contracts in good standing with the private prison industry.
If you oppose slavery, then help us SPREAD THE WORD about this legal-loophole that has been keeping slavery in full effect since the 13th amendment was written.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.