5 November 2023

Junee Correctional Centre to return to public ownership in 2025

| Chris Roe
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correctional centre

The Junee Correctional Centre will soon transition into public ownership. Photo: Steph Cooke.

The NSW Government is set to reverse the privatisation of the state’s jails, with confirmation that the Junee Correctional Centre will soon transition into public ownership.

The contract held by US multinational GEO Group will expire on 31 March, 2025, and management will be taken over by Corrective Services NSW.

Minister for Corrections Anoulack Chanthivong said it would mean around 340 public-sector jobs.

“This is just the first step in this process, which won’t be completed until 2025,” he said.

“This is a win for frontline staff and the community. It means locking in stable, secure and well-paid public-sector jobs for the region.”

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With more than 1000 inmates, Junee prison is one of the largest in NSW and GEO Group Australia expressed surprise over the news that its contract would not be renewed.

“The centre is the region’s largest employer and over the years our staff have worked tirelessly to forge strong and enduring partnerships with local stakeholders to deliver a safe and secure facility while promoting better outcomes for the people entrusted in GEO’s care,” it said in a media release.

“Even though staff are disappointed by this decision, and given the uncertainties and challenges brought about by transitioning to a new employer, GEO and its staff will work with the NSW Government to ensure a smooth handover.”

Correctional Centre sign

GEO Group Australia’s contract to operate the Junee Correctional Centre will expire in 2025. Photo: Supplied.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke also expressed disappointment, citing a lack of community consultation.

“The community deserves to hear directly from the Minister, not only about his plan for the future of the centre, but the reasons behind the decision,” she said.

“Some staff have been with the centre since it opened back in 1993; they and their colleagues deserve to know what the future looks like for them and what implications the Minister’s plans may have going forward.

“He needs to be clear about his decision, explain any impact it may have on the broader community, and outline what the Government is going to do to address any social and economic ramifications.”

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Dozens of correctional workers in Junee walked off the job in April due to a wage dispute and concerns over staffing and hours.

The Public Service Association of NSW has long argued for the de-privitisation of the state’s prisons and PSA general secretary Stewart Little welcomed the move.

“You can’t squeeze a profit from a prison unless you cut corners on safety, on wages, and on rehabilitation,” he said.

“Time and again we have seen private operators understaffing their prisons to save on wages, which means more assaults on prison officers and more prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

“Like the police and the courts, prisons are an integral part of the justice system, and they belong in public hands.”

PSA president Nicole Jess is a senior correctional officer and described the news as a “relief” for her colleagues.

“It’s shameful to think profits squeezed from prisons here in New South Wales have been divvied up in board rooms in New York, London and Singapore,” she said.

“I talk to prison officers every day. Those who work in private prisons universally report poor outcomes for both prison officers and prisoners.

“All the money that we save from not having to pay profits to private providers should now go back into supporting prisoners’ rehabilitation.”

It’s estimated that the Junee facility will cost $75 million a year to operate at full capacity and the Minns Government is expected to continue de-privatising correctional facilities as the contracts for the remaining two private prisons approach expiry.

“We’ll consider all options as contracts for other privately run facilities get closer to renewal, with a focus on delivering the best value for NSW and better outcomes for communities and the inmates,” said Minister Chanthivong.

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