Parklea prison contract awarded to US company MTC despite ‘atrocious’ record

The following article by Patrick Begley (ABC 28 November 2019) is about the contract just been awarded to company plagued with allegations relating to sexual assault and bribery in the United States, and asks, why was the contract given to run the women’s Parklea Correctional Centre in Sydney?

A due diligence report, obtained by the ABC under freedom of information laws, quotes scathing assessments of safety at MTC — the company which won the seven-year contract in April.

It detailed how an inmate escaped from an American prison run by MTC and went on to commit two murders.

It also outlined sexual assault allegations against guards and cited a US investigation that found MTC had a “culture of disorganisation”.

The contract means MTC — one of the largest private prison operators in the US — will oversee the management and expansion of the Parklea Correctional Centre in Sydney’s west, which includes minimum and maximum security facilities.

Former NSW prison superintendent Domenic Pezzano said it was “incomprehensible” that MTC could have won the contract if Corrective Services carried out proper due diligence.

“They certainly have an atrocious track record in the USA,” Mr Pezzano, now a consultant, said.

MTC had won the Parklea bid after partnering with Broadspectrum, formerly Transfield, which has run offshore immigration detention centres for the Australian Government.

The due diligence report by consultancy firm PwC presented “detailed findings” about MTC’s safety record.

Many of them were copied and pasted from news stories, with attribution.

The report said there had been riots at MTC centres in Arizona, Texas and Mississippi that led to several people being taken to hospital, and thousands of inmates being transferred.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey cancelled an MTC contract after an investigation found “a culture of disorganisation, disengagement and disregard” of Department of Corrections’ policies.

The report mentioned allegations of sexual abuse by guards as well as a bribery lawsuit brought by Mississippi’s Attorney-General against several private prison operators including MTC.

Earlier this year, MTC agreed to pay $US5.2 million to resolve the bribery case.

‘Should have rung alarm bells’

Troy Wright of the Public Service Association (PSA) said the safety report was “a hell of a rap sheet”.

“It should have rung very large alarm bells,” he said.

The PSA said Parklea correctional officers have suffered a record number of assaults within the first six months of MTC-Broadspectrum control.

But Corrective Services said the assault rate over the past year was lower than that at the state-run Silverwater facility.

Last year, Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin said MTC had “some difficulties” 10 to 12 years ago.

The Commissioner was not part of the tender panel, which included subject matter experts and relied on the “comprehensive” due diligence report by PwC, a Corrective Services spokeswoman said.

“Overall, the experts concluded that MTC has managed incidents proactively and put appropriate mitigating strategies in place,” the spokeswoman said.

At Parklea it has employed 50 more staff than the previous operator, she said.

“MTC has a strong track record over the past 32 years of providing safe and caring custody,” a company spokesperson said.

“Today, MTC provides services to more than 30,000 people at 23 correctional facilities and four detention centres.”

Photo from the ABC: The Parklea Correctional Centre

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