Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Imprisonment for profit

The Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009, is about to be voted on in the Australian Parliament this week.

In March 2009, the Government introduced the Bill into the Senate which if passed, would see the waiver of existing “detention debts” for all current and former inmates of Australian immigration detention centres. The Opposition party (the previous Government), responsible for implementing the detention debt liability policy, has indicated that it intends to oppose the bill's passage.

Under the Australian Migration Act, non-citizens without a visa are placed in mandatory detention and any former detainees not granted a Permanent Protection Visa or Humanitarian Visa, are liable to repay the Commonwealth the costs of their detention and subsequent deportation.

Kasian Wililo is a NSW resident with a wife, two young children and a full time job. He’s also a former detainee of Baxter Detention Centre. In May 2008, Mr Wililo received a bill from the Australian Immigration Department for $161,684.60.

As yet, regular Australian prisons for Australian citizens do not charge inmates for their own incarceration, unlike the good old United States of America.

Several US states now not only imprison people for not being able to pay fines or meet credit contract agreements, but additionally charge for the imprisonment, adding even more debt that can never be repaid, the very reason for sentencing in the first place. The result is indefinite prison terms for what is ultimately the crime of being poor; this is the outcome when private business operates prisons for profit. link

In 1997, Australasian Correctional Management P/L (ACM) was awarded by the federal government, the contract to police all the detention camps in Australia. In 2002, ACM's profit from running Australian detention centres was around $8.5 million.

Thiess Constructions Pty Ltd has been responsible for building several of Australia’s detention centres, including Baxter, where Kasian Wililo spent 1 year of his 2 and a half year detention ordeal.

Both Thiess and ACM each have a 50% stake in a partnership that is known as Australasian Correctional Services (ACS). ACM is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation of America. Wackenhut is the world's largest private prison operator and is itself a subsidiary of security giant, Group 4 Securicor (G4S). link

Wackenhut manages fifty five private prisons and detention camps in over eight countries. Working hand in hand with Wackenhut, is ADT Securitas - another American security company, specialising in electronic security and surveillance.

In a TV interview on SBS in 2000, the now deceased George Wackenhut said: “Australia is, really starting to punish people as they should have done all along.”

The majority of non-citizens in immigration detention have not violated any law of Australia, nor does their detention follow arrest, trial and conviction for any offence. Yet non-citizens who are eventually released on temporary visas and who wish to remain in the country begin their new lives in Australia with a huge debt.

The policy of charging detainees for their own imprisonment, costs more to administer each year than what is recovered. Of the $54 million in debts accrued to June 30, 2008, only 3.3 per cent ($1.8 million) was recovered. In this financial year, the costs of administration alone are predicted to be around $709,000, of which an estimated $573,000 would be recovered.

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