Monday, 18 August 2008

NSW govt to roll out prisons privatisation

The NSW government is expected to roll out a restructure of the state's prison system, including partial privatisation, after uncovering major rorting.

Prison bosses and key unions have been called to an urgent meeting today after an overtime and sick leave scam by a group of prison officers was reported.

The scam was estimated to be costing taxpayers more than $40 million a year, according to an unpublished audit of the state's prison system.

In one case, a prison officer was found to be earning $90,000 a year in overtime payments on top of his normal wage of $57,000.

Around 300 officers had racked up overtime payments of between 60 per cent and 90 per cent on top of their wages.

Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham would not comment.

A report by the NSW auditor-general said a new "way forward" to reduce the costs of prison management was being negotiated and had already been trialled in three NSW prisons.

Union sources said they feared a trial system of using part-time and casual workers to remedy the rorts would be adopted for all the state's 31 corrective centres.



“Officers at Long Bay Prison Complex are on total strike at the removal of their positions in the Long Bay Prison Hospital. This means that Justice Minister Hatzistergos has the whole Long Bay prison community in crisis due to his callous attempt to cut costs and remove 28 prison officer positions on April 2” said Justice Action spokesperson Brett Collins.

The loss of those positions led to the permanent 18 hour solitary confinement of mental patients. The whole mental health profession nationally, other authorities, teachers and patients have called for its reversal, ” said Justice Action spokesperson Michael Poynder.

The strike began last Tuesday, and is likely to continue over the weekend.

“The effect on the patients has been horrific. Service providers have expressed horror at this latest escalation. Normally such vulnerable people would be exempt from industrial action. This total isolation in single cells for mentally ill people amounts to torture and will cause immense damage,” said Mr Collins.

“This out of control crisis means that Premier Iemma can no longer abandon responsibility to his minister. He gave assurances to Parliament as Health Minister in 2004 that oblige him to intervene. We call for him to accept judicial control of the area as is adopted by the US in such a situation, and to grant an immediate visit to the patients from their families and community support” said Mr Collins.

Madness causing madness in prison hospital
“Fifty mental health patients held at the Long Bay Prison Hospital have from yesterday been locked in cells from 3.30 in the afternoon rather than the normal 9pm” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

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