Victoria has been criticised for outsourcing prison health care to private companies. 

The Victorian government recently signed a fresh deal to outsource health care in publicly run prisons to an overseas company, the US-owned contractor GEO Group Australia.

The contract had been held by Correct Care Australasia (CCA), which was previously part of GEO Australia before it was acquired by US-based Correct Care Solutions, now known as Wellpath, in 2014.

Victoria’s Department of Justice and Community Safety says the contract was awarded after a “careful evaluation of offers received”.

“The new service model includes an increased workforce and multi-disciplinary teams to provide high quality primary health services, strengthened release planning, and significant improvements to better support the health of Aboriginal people in prisons,” they said.

“The primary health service will also provide job opportunities to expand the Aboriginal health service delivery workforce.”

But the decision is frustrating for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), which claims the practice of outsourcing is fuelling service gaps for prisoners.

“The Victorian government needs to completely overhaul the prison healthcare system and take it out of the hands of for-profit corporations,” says VALS lawyer Sarah Schwartz. 

“For-profit corporations are not accountable to the community and have proven that they are ill-equipped to provide equivalent prison health care.”

VALS wants the state government to move oversight of custodial health services from the justice department to the health department, and to hire Aboriginal health organisations to deliver care to Indigenous people in prison.

Other Australian states deliver healthcare in public prisons under their health departments, including New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.