Privatised Prisons Have A Long History
Written by: Ned K. on 27 January 2021
Privatisation of prisons is still very much on the agenda of capitalism's governments in Australia. British based multinational Serco recently took over the Remand Centre in Adelaide to add to its private prison profit making in Australia.
This month Serco was fined $100,000 after a prisoner used a clothes rope to escape from the centre.
Soon after the escape, Public Sector Association (PSA) general secretary Nev Kitchin argued that "privately run prisons simply don't work".
"We're looking at multinational companies, we're looking at fewer staff, we're looking at inferior training, we're looking at more assaults occurring in the private prisons, we're looking at more contraband getting into the private prisons, and we're looking at overall reduced safety," he said.
Privatisation of prisons has a long history going back at least to the pre- prison reform movement in the late 1700s in England, about the same time as overflowing prisons there gave rise to transportation of prisoners to the colony of NSW.
In his extraordinarily researched book, The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes had this to say about the prison system in England in the 1750s to 1800 period. Prisons at that time were "holes in which prisoners could be forgotten. Their purpose was not reform, but terror and sublimation". For First Nations People in Australia today, nothing much has changed.
Hughes goes on to say that,
"About half the jails of England were privately owned and run. Chesterfield jail belonged to the Duke of Portland, who sublet it to a keeper for 18 guineas a year. The Bishop of Ely owned a prison, the Bishop of Durham had the Durham County jail, and Halifax jail belonged to the Duke of Leeds. Their jailers were not state employees but small businessmen who made their profits by extorting money from prisoners. On entering the Bishop of Ely's lock-up, a prisoner was chained down to the floor with a spiked collar riveted round his neck until he disgorged a fee for "easement of irons"
Prisoners "paid for food , for drink, for bedding, water and even air"!
Prisoners had to pay rent as well. Nowadays prisoners often work to make profit for private jail owners.
Nothing much has changed
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