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Prison contract extensions deliver safety, security and savings

Published: 20 Mar 2016

Serco Asia Pacific has welcomed the extension of two corrections contracts with the Queensland and Western Australian governments. 

The extensions come on the back of independent reports in the two states which have strongly endorsed the efficiency and effectiveness of private sector management in the prison system.

Serco has operated prisons in Queensland since 2008 and Southern Queensland Correctional Facility has been managed by Serco since it opened in January 2012. Our strong management and rehabilitation program at the facility was recently recognised with a one year contract extension to the end of 2017.

A report by the Queensland Auditor General early last month (February) found that on a marginal cost basis, “Queensland's eight public high security prisons are at least 65 per cent more expensive to operate than its two private prisons.” The marginal cost is how much extra is required to be spent on each additional prisoner.

At the same time the Auditor General found there were “no material anomalies with the private operators' performance in relation to security of their prisons.”

In WA, Serco’s contract to manage Acacia Prison has been extended for a further five years. Serco has managed Acacia since 2005.

Serco Asia Pacific CEO Mark Irwin said the prison was moving towards an optimised operating model following a building and program expansion.

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“By advising on the design and function of the expansion, we have been able to optimise the way we operate the prison, focused on security, safety and rehabilitation of prisoners. Importantly, the expansion has also allowed us to return further significant savings to the Government,” he said.

Acacia is the biggest prison in Australia, housing 1395 prisoners. Infrastructure was installed to improve security and deliver education, work, vocational training and programs which help to ensure prisoners return to the community less likely to reoffend. The agreement includes an option for the State to increase prisoner numbers by a further 100.

The contract extension follows a review by the State’s Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) into the State’s prison system.

The ERA, which reported in November 2015, found that Acacia is amongst the best prisons in the State across a range of measures and is the best performing in terms of cost per prisoner per day at 40 per cent less than the State average. This occurred without any diminution of safety and security while maintaining a focus on rehabilitation.

The ERA also found that contracts between the Department and Serco for the management of Acacia and Wandoo (a smaller reintegration facility) establish clear roles and responsibilities, performance targets and consequences for non-performance. This leads to higher levels of accountability and transparency than the public system. The ERA recommended that the public system introduce service level agreements to ensure it reached the level attained by privately operated prisons.


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