Lots of privately run prisons

March 9th, 2009 at 6:14 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that we may see existing prisons, not just new prisons, have their management taken over by the private sector.

If private management can do the job better than the Department of , I’m all for it. And by better I mean costing less, fewer escapes, less positive drug tests on prisoners, less smuggled contraband, lower reoffending rates and less corruption.

There is an insidious culture of toleration of corruption in many state prisons. I’m not sure even a new CEO, can change it – it has been ingrained for decades. So pervasive is it, that new staff have to turn a blind eye to it, to survive.

Allowing prisons to go with private management, may be the best thing that can happen for reducing corrupt behaviour in prison.

The state, as is appropriate, will still own the prisons, and set the minimum standards that must be adhered to. So this is privately managed prisons, not privately owned prisons.

Anyway you know the best thing abour having a prison under private management? You can sack them for incompetence! Yes if a private manager does not perform they can lose the contract and face penalties. However in Corrections we have decades of non performance, with little consequences.

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25 Responses to “Lots of privately run prisons”

  1. reid (16,611 comments) says:

    I understand Auckland iwi were pretty keen on retaining Auckland Remand in private management before Labour cancelled.

    One issue is, you can’t have it going from public to private to public everytime there’s a change of govt.

    Therefore the MP, as the most likely kingmaker successor to NZF, would ideally develop a pretty clear policy on this and ideally it would be a bottom-line issue for them in post-election negotiations. Chances of that happening I would guess aren’t that high. It’s not a headline issue for the electorate during the election cycle.

    Another thing, lets hope the govt is going to include a clause on significant bonuses and penalties arising from defined improvements or drops in recidivism. That’s a difficult thing to achieve but it’s a much bigger benefit to we taxpayers than any cost reductions that arise from administering the bloody things.

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  2. BlairM (2,356 comments) says:

    Excellent! Can we also have… a privately run TVNZ? How about a privately run postal service? Privately owned state houses? Surely what works so well for prisons (prisons of all things) will work for everything else? No?

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  3. peterwn (3,294 comments) says:

    See:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article5864483.ece

    “Judges took bribes to jail teenagers” (it is re-printed in today’s Dom-Post but can’t find it on Stuff)

    Not a good look for private prisons. A couple of USA judges were taking bribes from juvenile prison operators to send them plenty of prisoners – the state paid the operators according to the number of prisoners held. I think that the whole concept of elected judges is shonky.

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  4. petal (706 comments) says:

    Ah, the “law” of unintended consquences.

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  5. dad4justice (8,296 comments) says:

    Great stuff National as everybody knows corrections is a dysfunctional mess and we have the second highest incarceration rate in the world. My only worry with the law being an ass that judges and a bent police prosecution team will combine to jail those at the highest bidder in what is a very lucrative growth industry.

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  6. dad4justice (8,296 comments) says:

    peterwn ;25% of all the people in the entire world behind bars are in US jails.Why?
    There’s a lot of money to be made putting people in jail.

    Here’s the story of two Pennsylvania judges who took over $2.6 million in bribes to put THOUSANDS of kids in a private jail system.

    http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/578.html

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  7. Ross Miller (1,705 comments) says:

    Some might recall I foreshadowed this in an earlier post. So even if the SSC manage to whitewash Mathews change will happen … and about time too. The Public Sector model is an abismal failure. It had its chance and blew it big time over and over and over again.

    And ‘Crusher’ will make it happen and all the caterwauling from our resident PC Leftie Brigade will resonate not a jot with her.

    Some lady our Judith and living proof of the old adage that ‘if you aren’t a socialist by age 20 you haven’t a heart and if you aren’t a conservative by age 30 you haven’t a brain’. And that, I suspect, is what REALLY gets up the noses of Billy and Sonic et al. Crusher had the wit and intelligence to come in from the dark side and we are all the better for that.

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  8. cha (4,073 comments) says:

    Two Pennsylvania judges were charged with taking $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.

    Oh, and the owner of the detention centers is claiming he was the victim of an extortion scheme perpetrated by the judges

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  9. big bruv (14,112 comments) says:

    “Judges took bribes to jail teenagers” (it is re-printed in today’s Dom-Post but can’t find it on Stuff)

    Not a good look for private prisons. A couple of USA judges were taking bribes from juvenile prison operators to send them plenty of prisoners”

    More selective morality!

    I agree that is not a good look but where was the outcry from the left when a corrupt money lender managed to win the recent US Presidential election?

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  10. big bruv (14,112 comments) says:

    We need privately run prisons, we need LOTS of them.

    I don’t care if they are safer, I don’t care if they are more humane, I don’t care if they are better run, I don’t care if they have fewer escapes, I don’t care if they have less contraband and less drugs.

    What I DO care about is that they are much, much cheaper to run.

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  11. peterwn (3,294 comments) says:

    Looks like this Pennsylvania thing has come at a bad time for Judith Collins.

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  12. cha (4,073 comments) says:

    Also The Prison-Industrial Complex

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  13. ben (2,383 comments) says:

    The state, as is appropriate, will still own the prisons

    Why is that appropriate?

    If you’re interested in running with whatever model works best, which I think you are, and an argument and evidence can be compiled showing that on average private ownership produces better performance at lesss cost, then what’s appropriate about staying public? Staying with public ownership in that case simply makes the nation less safe and poorer.

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  14. Tim Ellis (251 comments) says:

    This is a sensible and bold move. It seems there will be a bit of a chicken-little reaction from the Labour Party, but if Corrections really does need a serious shake-up, then I can’t see that happening without either a complete destruction of the department and starting again, or a move to put individual prison management out to tender.

    Of course there are abuses in private prisons internationally. There have also been abuses in public prisons internationally, and in New Zealand. The difference is that it’s much harder to hold public prison management to account for abuses.

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  15. dime (10,083 comments) says:

    “Looks like this Pennsylvania thing has come at a bad time for Judith Collins.”

    hahahahaha hourly posts trying to drum up a scandal? good luck!

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  16. Scott (1,816 comments) says:

    Totally agree with you DPF and also Tim Ellis. We ran some church services at Auckland remand prison when it was still private. I was struck by the professionalism of the staff and the clean and modern surroundings. Right next door was Mount Eden prison — you couldn’t get a bigger contrast.

    I think if private enterprise can do a good job of running prisons, then all power to them. Another excellent move by this government in my opinion.

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  17. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,753 comments) says:

    Labour can’t win for losing. :lol:

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  18. He-Man (270 comments) says:

    I mean costing less, fewer escapes, less positive drug tests on prisoners, less smuggled contraband, lower reoffending rates and less corruption

    This dosen’t happen in the US private prisons, and neither will it hapen here.

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  19. Tim Ellis (251 comments) says:

    This dosen’t happen in the US private prisons, and neither will it hapen here.

    Well, it did happen here when the Auckland Remand prison was managed by a private company.

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  20. He-Man (270 comments) says:

    In 1998 the US had a prison population of 445 per 100,000 of population. Today that number stands at 701 per 100,000. The aim of private prisons is to jail more people, and to keep them in longer, because there are more profits to be made that way.

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  21. getstaffed (9,186 comments) says:

    harpoon, Horrific indeed.

    So those judges belong in jail, and the company operating the juvenile detention centre should be fined mega-bucks and have their contract suspended.

    However trying to make a case that private management leads to a generally corrupt judiciary is just nuts.

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  22. Harpoon (72 comments) says:

    Getstaffed, how many instances would you need to see, in order to change your mind about private prisons, of corruption, wrongful incarceration, prison companies working to encourage misbehaviour (Result — quelle suprise!: longer stays), etc etc …?

    Private prisons are morally reprehensible, unjust, bad for society, and silly policy.

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  23. getstaffed (9,186 comments) says:

    The problems you list are mostly represented in prisons today.

    I don’t buy the idea that because something is privately run that it’s inherently better or worse that state run. It comes down to implementation, governance structure and audit/control processes.

    And anyway, where do you draw the line? State run prisons use contract staff, independent transport services, private caterers &maintenance staff. Has been this way for years. Should the state prime all these services to mitigate the risk you see of corruption and/or undue influence? Are state-paid workers less susceptible to reprehensible wrongs than are their privately-paid counterparts?

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