Challenge law and order bipartisanship: Cancel all contracts with G4S

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The ALP and the Liberal Party are engaged in a predictable “ tough on crime” battle in Victoria’ s state election. However neither party has anything to offer in terms of police accountability or solutions for people’ s desperate plights that throw them into the clutches of capitalist law. Both peddle discredited “ lock em up” policies that will see more Victorians — especially young people, Aboriginal people, those suffering mental health and addiction issues — incarcerated.
The Libs promise more police and a ban on suspended sentences and home detention. The ALP wants longer prison sentences and steadily erodes democratic rights with its new stop-and-search powers and Taser trial for rural Victoria.
Both parties are happy to outsource law enforcement, scam the public, cut costs, and fatten profits by contracting prisons to private corporations.
Stop profiteering from misery. The Victorian prison population continues to skyrocket. It increased by 55% over the past decade. Victoria’ s two largest prisons — Fulham and Port Phillip, housing nearly 1,500 inmates between them — are both privately run. Information is supressed through “ commercial confidence.” But on public record is the cost of imprisoning a single prisoner — $98,185 per inmate each year. Imagine if this money was spent on welfare, health, housing, education, training and jobs!
The Freedom Socialist Party is backing a pre-election rally, initiated by the Indigenous Social Justice Association, that demands the cancellation of contracts with the private security cartel, G4S. End prison privatisation and make Victoria Taser-free! It is a solidarity action with the Ward Campaign for Justice — part of the ongoing struggle to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Mr Ward died in the back of a prison transport van operated by G4S in January 2008. The West Australian Coroner found that this well-respected Warburton Elder was killed by heatstroke. He described the treatment of Mr Ward as “ inhumane” and “ wholly unnecessary and avoidable.”
G4S Australia is a subsidiary of the British global security giant. It has prison transport contracts with the Victorian government, and it runs the Port Phillip Prison. It is a company with blood on its hands. G4S was found to have contributed to the hanging deaths of three prisoners at Port Phillip between 1997 and 1998 and the drug overdose of another inmate.
Ian Westcott’ s death in his Port Phillip Prison cell in 2005 was also preventable. He died from an asthma attack. A note beside his body said “ Asthma attack. Buzzed for help. No response.” The coroner called the faulty intercom system “ archaic” and blamed this for Westcott’ s death.
Why was the intercom system faulty? Clearly profits came first. Private companies, such as G4S, which run prisons to make money, exploit prisoners who are disproportionately young, poor, Indigenous or immigrants.
G4S also holds contracts for immigration detention centres in Australia and internationally. In 2004, the company was fined $500,000 for refusing people in immigration detention access to food and water or a toilet stop on a seven-hour trip. Just last month, G4S made international headlines when a man in their care, being deported from the UK to Angola, died while being heavily restrained with what witnesses say was excessive force.
Build the movement. Prisons are institutions of social control and inhumane punishment rather than rehabilitation. They are designed to preserve the status quo by criminalising the oppressed.
The fight to defend and extend democratic rights is important, and resistance makes a difference. But in campaigning for democratic rights, it is important to be clear that the State is an instrument of class rule, which will remain in capitalist hands until the working class takes power.
The campaign to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody is an excellent example of this struggle. All along, the movement has demanded coronial inquiries. It is campaigning successfully to hold those responsible for Mr Ward’ s death accountable. Sixteen years on, activists haven’ t let up on demanding that all the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody be implemented. The movement is tenacious. It wants answers. It demands that police and prison officers be held to account. It has made a difference. But it is only through overthrowing the whole economic system that the movement’ s objectives can be met in full.
This state election, both the Liberals and the ALP are at one when it comes to spending money to criminalise dissent and lock up the poor. But the movement has a different message: End prison privatisation! Make Victoria a Taser free zone! Stop Aboriginal deaths in custody! Cancel all contracts with G4S!
What you can do! Join us for a rally, Wednesday 24 November, 12:30 pm, steps of Parliament House, Melbourne. March on the office of Corrections Minister James Merlino: demand all State contracts with G4S be immediately cancelled!

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