• Nick Smith

Corrections Minister Nick Smith today announced that the Government will be putting out to tender the management and running of the three new prisons in Northland, greater Auckland and the new Central Auckland Remand Prison.

"The Government is taking a quite pragmatic approach to private sector involvement in the running of prisons. If it can be shown that a private company can deliver a better quality of prison, at less cost to the taxpayer, we should take up that opportunity. If however, the best bid comes from the existing Public Prison Service, then the Government is not hell-bent on privatisation."

Tenders for contract management of the new prisons will be invited in October. It is expected that the successful tender for Auckland Central Remand Prison will be announced by July 1999. In all three cases, the buildings will be publicly owned. The tender process will be reviewed by Audit New Zealand to ensure it is fair to both the Public Prison Service and private bidders.

"The option of private sector involvement is well worth exploring. In the United Kingdom, United States and Australia, the results show that contract managed prisons can be run in a humane, innovative and cost effective way. Most importantly it provides a valuable benchmark against which we can measure the performance of our public prisons. Key performance measures will be escape rates, drug use, incidents, re-offending rates and cost to the taxpayer."

The prisons will be required to operate to the same rigorous standards and requirements that exists in public prisons. They will also be subject to inspection visits from the Judiciary, Prison Inspectorate, Ombudsman and Members of Parliament. The contracts will be subject to public scrutiny in that the law requires that they be tabled in Parliament.

"This is an exciting new approach to prison management and is part of a wider agenda to lift performance and get better value for money for the taxpayer."