Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

Business Behind Bars 2000

Directed by Catherine Scott

104 minutes Beta-SP



Catherine Scott, Pat Fiske


Catherine Scott, Alison Lyssa


Stephen Broadhurst, Jane Castle


Catherine Scott, Andrew Arestides


Daniel Brooks, Mark Tarpey


Davood A. Tabrizi

In an era of slogans like ‘Zero Tolerance’, and ‘Three Strikes You’re Out’, Business Behind Bars investigates the anomalies of a public justice system which incarcerates people in privately owned prisons. Rather than looking at crime prevention and prison population reduction strategies, governments in the US, Australia and South Africa are increasing their prison capacities, and contracting out the liability of prisoner management to private corporations.

In a two-part exposé, Business Behind Bars draws attention to the many problems created by a private prison system. Factories from the outside world are closing down in order to exploit the cheaper labour that is offered inside private prisons, while prisoners can be transported thousands of miles from friends and family for reasons of efficiency. With a powerful market-driven incentive to incarcerate more people for longer periods of time, prisoners are now literally commodities to be bought and sold.

The first part of Business Behind Bars depicts American private prisons as ruthlessly efficient with strong community support for the local economic benefits that they bring. In one surreal scene, hundreds of salesmen converge at a convention, marketing the latest in prison products ranging from the neo-feudalistic to the downright kinky.

Conversely, the second part shows an Australian prison, under-resourced and with untrained staff, fending off community legal centres fighting to access information about recent suicides behind closed gates. Both countries’ private prisons are in fact a reflection of the same model, but in Australia, the increasing number of dissenting voices may be preventing the spread of their success.

Audiences may note with interest that Auckland Remand Prison is the first private prison built in New Zealand, and has been operating since July 2000. — MD