Wednesday, 29 October 2008

NSW prisoners confined to cells for strike

Sydney's Long Bay Jail will be impacted by the strike.

Most prisoners in New South Wales will be confined to their cells today as prison officers strike against privatisation plans.

The strike action, which began last night, is affecting some of the state's major prisons including Long Bay, Parklea, Cessnock and Goulburn.

Prison officers says safety will be compromised if the NSW Government goes ahead with plans to privatise jails and security in court lockups.

Corrective Services spokesman Bob Stapleton says he has no concerns about security for the duration of the strike.

"The jails on strike will be locked down - fully locked down - for security reasons obviously," he said.

He says around 5,000 prisoners will still be provided with meals, showers, exercise and medical attention.

"The jails will be staffed by commissioned officers, those that are on strike," he said.

"Inmates will be locked in but there'll be provisions for them to shower and have meals provided and exercise and medical attention will be there as well."

The prisoners' advocacy group, Justice Action, is supporting the strike, saying that adding the profit motive to prisons is wrong.

Prison officers will hold a protest rally outside State Parliament this morning.

Cessnock MP Kerry Hickey says he hopes today's strike by prison officers prompts the NSW Government to abandon prison privatisation plans.

Mr Hickey says he believes the State Government rather than private interests, is better placed to run jails.

"I look at the reform services and the problems inside privatised jails and I'm yet to be convinced that it's conducted better by private entrepreneurs in the correctional services than the State Government," he said.

"We need outcomes that benefit our communities."

Prisoners support Prison Officers’ strike against privatisation

“NSW prisoners generally agree that adding the profit motive to the horror of prisons is wrong. Prisoners support the prison officers’ strike beginning tonight. Only a morally corrupt government would invite overseas private corporations to make profit from our misery, to control citizens like slaves in cages,” said Justice Action spokesperson Brett Collins.

“The ultimate responsibility for government is the creation of a safer society. Corrective Services spends $70,000 a prisoner a year, yet 44% of prisoners return to prison within two years. Cutting services through privatisation will mean worse results and higher costs eventually, which will be borne by the victims and taxpayers” said Justice Action spokesperson Michael Poynder.

Prison officers began their industrial campaign following the Cabinet decision to transfer the Long Bay Prison Hospital from Corrective Services to Health. This returned to the forensic patients their 12 hours out of cell, but meant the loss of 105 officers’ jobs to the private firm which services the Health Dept.

Justice Marks ordered them in the IRC on 26/9 to lift their bans on overtime, but now the Department of Corrective Services has widened the dispute to include privatisation of other functions.

“We support the prison officers in their campaign. Corrective Services cannot drop its responsibilities like this, disguising its budget costs with private deals. Its callousness with the mental health patients’ lockdown, cutting 28 officer positions to save costs whilst causing mental illness shows its failure in its core functions.

It is critically important that prisons be adequately staffed and with vital programs such as health and education provided to prisoners” Mr Poynder said.

Contact: Brett Collins 0438 705003
Michael Poynder 0401 371077

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