The real reason a private prison is putting phones into cells



New prison to give inmates phones and computers

Cells in all New Zealand jails may soon be fitted out with phones and computers in a bid to boost prisoners’ educational levels so that they can get jobs and stop reoffending after their release.

Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga is welcoming a controversial decision by British prison operator Serco to put phones and computers into every standard cell in its new $270 million jail for 960 men, which opens at Wiri in South Auckland on Friday.

Prisoners will use the phones to make pre-arranged calls to family members and services such as counselling, but they will not be able to receive calls and their outgoing calls will be monitored. They will use the computers for study, to book appointments and even to change their meal menus.

“We believe that prisoners with access to this electronic learning tool are going to be more successful in increasing their education and skills. It is an advance I would like to see in all New Zealand prisons,” Mr Lotu-Iiga said.

…cue Garth moaning that it’s too good for ’em and demanding a level of suffering for prisoners…

But Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar said he was “appalled” by the move, saying it would actually create an incentive to offend

…the real reason SERCO is putting phones in every cell is very simple. It’s not ‘education’ or ‘counselling’ it’s because normally Prisons need high levels of staff to take prisoners to phones. In private prison, the corporation makes its money from…

1- Contract from Government

2 – More NZers in prisons for longer

3 – The forced labour of the prisoners

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and 4 – from cutting back on prison officers. 

SERCO has to put phones in every cell so that their business model of fewer staff pays out for them.

This is about SERCOs well being, it’s got very little to do with the well being of the prisoners.


  1. So what’s Gareth Morgan got to do with this? Gareth =/= Garth.

    I wonder if they will charge the prisoners money for using the computers and phones? That’s how it works in the US I believe.

    • He means Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust. It’s even written right there in the 2nd greyed out quote.

  2. Always good to read the other side of the story… The NZ Herald surely must take the prize for being the most right biased rag out.

    • Agreed.

      Serco are like some vile pestilence insidiously infecting everything, including the military/industrial complex. Despite being found guilty of a catalog of abuses, they seem to be the go-to-guys for conservative governments everywhere. Got a dirty job you need doing, and don’t want blood on your hands? Call 0800 RENT-A-THUG. Serco will be happy to help… themselves to vast profits at your nation’s expense.

  3. Business have no morals today.

    Anyway no save a buck is their motto.

    Next they will hire robots and do away with real humans.

    Just no end to cost cutting is there.

    • Heck, even better, just have robot prisoners. They won’t cause trouble, won’t get sick, won’t demand compensation for wrongdoings, and will do whatever work is required without labour charges. Occupancy rates will remain high, as they won’t demand to be released, so government funding will remain stable.

      As for the humans who commit the crimes, well, they’re just bloody lefties and bludgers, right? Just send them to an island to fight to the death. Not one of the nice islands, though. That’s where we go to drink white wine and compare yachts.

  4. At Auckland Central Remand Prison, Serco who were paid $300 milion for a 10 year contract, also give desserts as well as TV’s so they can operate with a skeleton crew and keep their out going monies down, presumably so there is more money for their shareholders.
    They are listed on the London stock exchange and are in it for the money not rehabilitation.
    Serco made a ‘modest’ profit in its first year of managment of the prison
    Private prisons
    In the 1990s the National government opened prison management up to private companies. The Auckland Central Remand Prison, at Mt Eden, was contracted out to Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) in 1999. That same year a Labour-led government was elected which opposed private prisons. Mt Eden reverted to public control in July 2005. Upon their re-election in 2008, National revived the private prisons policy. In January 2011 the British company Serco Pacific was contracted to run the Mt Eden Corrections Facility for six years. In 2012 it was announced that a new private prison would be built at Wiri, South Auckland, to open in 2015.
    Why would we outsource NZ prison managment when we have the capabilities to run it ourselves, talking to you National.

  5. Can’t get why you are against this Martyn. It’s liberal and progressive. Computers are vital to education. Serco are incentivised to lower recidivism rates, a goal nobody would disagree with.

    I can’t agree with Garth McVicar. Creating an incentive to offend? That’s a long bow. Though Garth believes anything that makes prisons ‘nicer’ places to be reduces the crime deterrent effect.

    • I don’t read it as him being against the decision. It just seems he distrusts their PR rationale for doing so.

      Sure, give them tools to educate themselves, but not just so you can cut back on staffing costs. That particular choice means an increase in unemployment for the singular purpose of a private company to profit from a social problem.

      For Serco to play the lovey dovey “We care” card is obviously complete bollocks.

    • 81% of all offenders reoffend within 2 years of release
      25% of violent offenders reoffend while on bail
      71% of prisoners have difficulty in reading and writing

      How is having TV phones desserts and computors going to stop this?

      If Serco was committed to lower recidivism rates
      Why don’t they have rehabilition programmes ie anger managment, budgetting advise, literacy and numeracy training, alcohol and drug treatment, secondary and tertiary education

      “The Government is committed to achieving a 25% reduction in re-offending by 2017,”
      Haven’t all governments being talking about prisoner reduction since we only had 1 prison in NZ

      Meanwhile just give them TVs puddings computors and phones while we need to build more prisons in NZ.
      Isn’t that what disinterested, overworked and tired parents do, give their spoilt child TV’s computor’s phones and lots of junk food so they don’t have to deal with their anti social behaviour.
      Just herd them around with “bribes”.
      I am all for education in prisons so there maybe a smoother transition into outside prison life for all concerned, but I just don’t believe Serco has the committment to recidivism, as you do.

  6. Hmmm. You raise a good point. Hope is an important human need though, and exponentially better met this way. This is a good move.
    I’m sure there’s a heeap of safety issues to pull up the slack in the man hours at the mo, though.

  7. recently a corrections officer told me that they have many guards from Serco prisons move to state run prisons because they simply dont feel safe with the smaller staff numbers at the serco prisions

  8. Funny how the likes of Garth McVicar paints prisons as “holiday camps” – yet no one is actually queuing to get in.

    But they sure as hell try to escape.

    If McVicar actually believes that phones and computers “actually create an incentive to offend”, then he is demonstrably batshit-crazy.

  9. Why do you care about what the motivation behind this move? The ultimate question is do you think it is a good thing or not.

    • I actually don’t because the computers parts can be used to make weapons, and I would suspect, poisons.

      There are some prisoners who would benefit from computers but, by and large, a large proportion of prisoners would get more benefit from being taught to read and do basic maths. These people are most likely to have failed at school so need intensive human intervention to work out what when wrong with their learning and to teach it in the right way for them – I suspect many of them that have hidden learning disabilities. Computer learning is likely to be the least effective way to teach them.

    • What, so an issue must only be reduced to a yes or no answer? That’s the kind of thinking that people who write polling questions would use. Come on. If you were a lawyer and told the jury to just “ignore the motivation, and tell us whether he’s guilty or not” you’d be laughed out of court. So why should a discussion about the issue be any different?

      Stop trying to dumb the argument down to your level.

      Raise yourself up to its level instead.

    • Gosman – you might care to read and re-read Richarquis’ 9.52PM post. It sums up why few people take you seriously.

      Motivation is all-important. Taken to extreme, it can cloud common sense, good judgement, and factual data. Something that this wretched government is often guilty off.

  10. Robots are being planned for the care of old people, so I guess for prisoners too. It looks like prisons and prisoners to be run by technology.

  11. I have a little knowledge of the corrections department. The main requirement of corrections officers is to keep the prisoners safe and secure. All prisoners will eventually return to integrate with society and there are many reasons and ways to ensure they have the skills and education to re enter society. With pcs’ and phones in cells there are fewer prisoner movements with fewer opportunities for mischief and more opportunities for training in cells rather than having limited time in common areas. There are more than a few people in prison who you could say…there but for the grace of god….or if I had been caught…..go I. Prisoners are humans too…some with major addictions and mental problems who should be receiving treatment in hospital rather than prison. I think a good test of peoples reactions to prisoners would be to ask the question…If it was my child or parent in prison…how would I want them treated? My own view is that we, as a society, need to do far more intervention at the early stages of peoples lives to ensure they have the ability and skills not to turn to crime which will ultimately save human and financial costs born by society.

  12. I have been a guess at her majesty request and the way Garth Mc Vicar paints prison as a holiday camp is laughable, It is a place of depravation and hardship with hopelessness in abundance it creates misery and thuggish behavior and its usually the weak that will suffer the wrath of the strong.

    Now people might say that they deserve it but you have to take into account the amount of offenders in their for pity crimes ie drunk driving, driving whilst disqualified, shop lifting, trespassing, and a host of trivial charges that they would be better doing community sentences then being subjected to these punitive and desensitizing conditions.

    I personally would advocate for measures that have been initiated by corrections but would go even further and suggest that when inmates do labor jobs like building frames for houses that they get paid the minimum wage like what people on the outer get, that way it gives them cash when being released and it gives incentives that this is what they can expect when being rewarded for working hard.

    Rehabilitation and acceptance is vital for most of these inmates cause most of them have been rejected and have had tough lives and that may not be an excuse to commit crimes but it maybe an insight of why.

  13. Does anyone remember Clint Rickards and Mike Sabin? Can we get an official information request on any previous criminal convictions or name suppression of Sam Lotu-Iiga – and any possible past gang memberships?

  14. As a benefit rights advocate I’d point out that many low income earners don’t have a computer at home. I’m struggling to see why people being punished should receive access to higher levels of technology than people OUTSIDE the prison.

    Is SERCO (or anyone) incentivised to keep people from ever entering a prison in the first place? Given the harm that criminal offenses have on society this would appear to be the better idea.

    • K, with respect, it should never be reduced to an either/or argument. That is the rationale used by successive governments to cut back state and social services.

      Higher levels should be advocated for low income earners as well as prisoners.

      Keeping prisoners dumbed down helps no one.

      Computers in cells – a great idea. Anything that improves prisoners’ education and worldview. (And make “The Daily Blog” top of all search-engine results!)

      Phones in cells – not so much. The potential to re-victimise victims, especially from domestic situations, worries me.

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