Revolutionary Anti Colonialism & Anti Capitalism in the Pacific
Deal set despite prison firm's 'lethal' past - G4S poised to be awarded Melb contract
February 7, 2010...
THE state government is poised to award a multimillion-dollar prison contract to a private company whose human rights record has been called into question.
The Sunday Age can reveal that private prison contractor G4S Australia & New Zealand is the preferred tenderer to take over the Melbourne Custody Centre, a city-based facility that each year processes 11,000 people through cells under the Magistrates Court.
The private security firm was last year named in a damning West Australian Coroner's report, which found it had contributed to the ''wholly unnecessary and avoidable death'' of a 46-year-old Aboriginal man in its custody in January 2008.
The company's record in Victoria is also marked by a coroner's finding last year that it contributed to the 2005 death of Ian Westcott, who died of an asthma attack in the G4S-run Port Phillip prison. A note found near his body read: ''Asthma attack. Buzzed for help. No response.''
In 2000, a coroner found the company had failed to provide a safe environment at Port Phillip when four men hanged themselves in 1997.
A 2006 report by the Victorian Ombudsman and the Office of Police Integrity found inadequacies in the way prisoners were transported, with insufficient attention paid to their conditions, including ''basic amenities for long trips''.
Charandev Singh, a spokesman for the Centre for the Human Rights of Imprisoned People, said the decision to give G4S preferred tenderer status was shocking.
''The company's lethal record, combined with the circumstances of the horrific death of [the Aboriginal elder], appears to have been totally negated by the Brumby government and Victoria Police in their intention to award a further lucrative contract to this company.''
The Melbourne Custody Centre tender is a sensitive issue for the state government, which was last year criticised by prisoner advocates for renewing G4S's prisoner transport contract despite the WA Coroner's finding.
The two companies shortlisted for the Melbourne Custody Centre - G4S and GEO Group Australia - both have blemished records in the eyes of human rights advocates.
GEO Group Australia is the existing contractor and has been criticised by the Ombudsman several times for using excessive force on prisoners - most recently in August 2008.
GEO, which has run the 30-cell facility for almost 11 years, was recently dropped from the shortlist when the government named G4S as preferred tenderer.
Both firms are subsidiaries of multinational outfits specialising in security systems and correctional and detention facilities.
The contract for management of the custody centre - which serves the court system but also operates as a holding facility for drug and alcohol-affected people - is yet to be signed with G4S, but is believed to be with Corrections Minister Bob Cameron.
A G4s spokesman said he could not comment while the tender was still going. A spokesman for Mr Cameron said he was also unable to comment.
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