Private operator of Mt Eden fined $150,000 for prison escape; security improvements made

News from Department of Corrections
Improvements to the security of Mt Eden Corrections Facility (MECF) have been made following a joint review into an escape from the prison last year.

Both operational security, in terms of staff supervision and monitoring, and the physical security of the building infrastructure have been enhanced.

MECF is operated under contract by Serco. Department of Corrections Chief Executive Ray Smith and Serco Managing Director Paul Mahoney jointly commissioned a review after Prisoner Aaron Forden escaped from MECF in the early hours of Monday 10 October 2011. Mr Forden was recaptured on 17 October.

The review recommended a number of changes at MECF to improve the security of the facility. The Department and Serco have worked together to implement the recommendations.

“Ensuring public safety is the first priority for the Department and Serco, which is why we immediately commissioned a joint review after the escape last year. Following the incident, we worked together to quickly make key improvements to the prison’s security,” Department of Corrections Chief Executive Ray Smith said.

The Department of Corrections owns the Facility and closely monitors Serco’s operations and performance. The Department has maintained an on-site Prison Monitor at MECF since it opened to ensure compliance with the contract, and will continue to observe the improvements being made on-site.

A portion of the Department’s payment to Serco for the management of MECF is performance related and a range of standards must be met in order to receive the full amount. Under the terms of the contract, a $150,000 financial penalty can be levied for an escape and this amount will be deducted from the next quarterly performance-related payment.

“I have determined that it is appropriate to levy a financial penalty for this escape under the terms of the contract. The Department remains committed to the partnership with Serco and drawing on the many positive and innovative aspects of their international prison operations,” Mr Smith said.

Background
Only three prisoners have escaped from New Zealand Corrections Facilities in the past year (including Forden).

More information on the management of MECF by Serco under contract is available on the Department of Corrections website at this link:

http://www.corrections.govt.nz/news-and-publications/contract_management_of_prisons_project.html

The review documents cannot be released as they contain information that could compromise the security of the Corrections Facility and put the safety of staff at risk.

More on the escape:
No special watch on prisoner