Serco failing to meet Mt Eden prison targets

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 15:27 05/07/2012

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Private prison operator Serco has failed to meet half of its performance targets since taking over Auckland's Mt Eden Prison.

A report card on Serco's performance released today reveals three inmates were wrongly released, one escaped and there were three wrongful detentions.

The percentage of sentenced prisoners with an appropriate plan in place within required timeframes was only 28 per cent - two thirds lower than the 90 per cent target.

Of 37 targets Serco was to meet in the nine months to April half weren't met.

Corrections said Serco had accepted responsibility for one wrongful release. To date the final decision on whether they'd be fined on a second wrongful release had not been made, and discussions between both parties about whether they'd followed correct operational processes were ongoing.

Corrections are to issue a performance notice for a third wrongful release that occurred in March.

During its first quarter running the prison Serco was fined $150,000 after prisoner Aaron Forden escaped in February. Forden, dubbed "Houdini" escaped along with another inmate who was caught almost immediately. 

The firm was also fined $25,000 for releasing one inmate early and $50,000 for failing to file progress reports. Escapes and wrongful releases are listed as zero targets.

Corrections said other targets had been met or exceeded by Serco and others were "either stable or improving".

The prison was applauded for clamping down on drugs, returning one of the lowest rates of positive drugs tests nationwide and for eliminating incidents of self harm.

"Serco's performance at MECF (Mt Eden Correctional Facility) is steady or strengthening, as we expected it would. While it has fallen short in some of the first year targets I expect the trend to be one of gradual improvement," said Corrections' Deputy Chief Executive Christine Stevenson.

Corrections said they were working "closely" with Serco to improve their performance in the areas they didn't score well in.

"There are a number of innovations Serco has put in place at MECF that the Department is looking at closely to assess the potential for expansion into publicly managed prisons."

They noted Serco had taken steps to make prison visits more family friendly to encourage inmates to have regular, positive engagement with their children. This was said to reduce inmates' risk of reoffending.

In March the Government announced Serco would also run a new 960-bed jail being built in South Auckland.

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