Racism has created a market. The market grows by encouraging racism.
In the previous 20 years, rates of imprisonment of Indigenous people in Australia has gone from one person in seven incarcerated to one in four. Indigenous people make up 26 per cent of the prisoner population yet only constitute 2.5 per cent of the total population.
This is the same period in which the policy of mandatory detention of was introduced.
Australia has a higher proportion of prisoners in private prisons than any other country. It also has the highest number of people interned in privately-run detention centres in the world.
Many of the same companies are involved in the private prison industry as in the detention industry.
For instance, Serco* runs the Acacia Prison in Western Australia, the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre in Queensland, the detention centres in Villawood, Christmas Island, Curtin (WA), and elsewhere, and holds contracts for deportations and transfers. (They are also opening a new prison in New Zealand.)
While the United States maintains the highest total number of privately held prisoners, Australia, Scotland, England and Wales, and New Zealand hold a larger proportion of prisoners in private facilities, with a high of 19 percent in Australia.
Australia’s first private prison was operated by Correctional Corporation of Australia, an international venture of Corrections Corporation of America.32 The Queensland facility began operations in 1990, and soon stoked interest in privatization in several other states.33 By 2011, five of Australia’s eight states had some level of privatization, with Victoria having the highest rate (33 percent), as well as the largest privately held population (1,530).34 Victoria is likely to add to its privately held population as the local government is soliciting bids for a new 500-bed facility to be built in Melbourne.35 Nonetheless, Victoria may lose the dubious distinction of having the most privatized prison system in Australia to Queensland, where there are plans to privatize the entire state prison system.36
As in the United Kingdom and the United States, Australia’s use of private prison companies is more pervasive in the detention of immigrants than in the management of prisons.42 However, the Australian immigrant detention system is unique in that it is entirely operated by for-profit companies.43 In April 2013, there were 8,797 individuals held in Australian Immigration Detention Facilities and Alternative Places of Detention.44
*NB: Detention centre contracts are currently being put out to tender again. This means that Serco could renew their contracts, Transfield could gain additional contracts, or other companies could become involved in these industries. Watch this space.