Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A fog hangs over Robertson

It is almost refreshing to be able to write about the weather. Indeed a fog does hang over Robertson tonight, as I write. It is the first in about 10 days. We have had an unseasonably dry spell. February and March are the classic wet months in Robertson, statistically. But not this season.

And, yes that other fog does also hang over Robertson as I write. Anni is urging me to stay away from "the meeting" - for the sake of my own sanity, I believe. She does have a point. <>For the record, I do not think a gaol would be appropriate in Robertson - for all the physical reasons listed previously.

More personally, I am not sure I wish to have much to do with the people who run gaols. GEO Group Australia is an Australian subsidiary of a large American company (GEO Group Inc.). It is the largest provider of "correctional services" in Australia. It also runs Australia's "Immigration Detention Centres". You will have heard of "Baxter" and "Port Headland" and "Villawood". It sees running prisons as a business - one with good opportunities for growth. As such they have a direct incentive to encourage Governments to open new gaols, and expand (and "privatise") existing ones. It might be a good corporate strategy, but is this good public policy?

Have a look at their Newsletter No 6, dated October 2005 - its the one with a front page photo of 2 men locked in hand-to-hand combat with the caption: "The need for training that is stimulating and challenging was clearly expressed in the 2005 GEO Employee Survey".

Corporate brutality is not a frame of mind with which I feel comfortable. Mind you, GEO at Junee does boast that they sponsor the local Rugby League teams With "training" such as that illustrated in the photo the GEO Junior Spuddies - would not just win "the comp" - they would be invincible.

The award for the "2004 employee of the year" at the Junee Correctional Facility went to the woman who runs the in-house methadone clinic at Junee Prison. She may well be a good nurse, and a good manager - that is not the point.

It was the "reward" which the GEO company offered her so proudly which had me stumped. She "won" a 10 day long trip to South Africa, "for a visit to the 3024-bed "GEO" correctional facility, Kuthama-Sinthumule, at Louis Thichardt, in the Northern Province, to observe how the medical treatment of the 3600 inmates is handled." What sort of corporate mentality does that illustrate? Whatever happened to those incentive schemes which promoted genuine holiday trips to Fiji?

What about their maths, by the way - 3024 beds, with 3600 inmates? Are they a broadminded company, or are they "economical", and manage the use of beds in "shifts"?

For the record GEO's own website reports that 20% of the inmates at the Junee prison are on the company-run Methadone Program.

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