Nandor on private prisons

Nandor Tanczos blogs:

I think the best run prison the country has seen was the Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) when it was run by Australasian Correctional Management (now Geotech) – a private prison operator. OK, it was a brand new (Government built) facility. It didn’t take sentenced prisoners, so the dynamics were quite different, and its contractual obligations were different from those of public prisons.

What impressed me, though, was the needs assessments on new inmates, at a time when the infamous Integrated Offender Management System was barely functioning in the public system. What also impressed was the leadership of its outstanding General Manager Dom Karauria.

As an aside it is interesting that a number of experienced Maori managers have done well with Australian private prison operators. They don’t seem to face the same institutional barriers, or maybe Australian prison companies just value a Maori perspective.

And Labour legislated to make this illegal and remove such good management.

Nandor goes on to put forward his preferred option:

It recommended small scale habilitation centres, with intensive, often confrontational, therapy to address the causes of offending. Sentenced prisoners would be assessed for suitability and people not suitable, or trying to play the system, would stay in a general prison.

The Public Prison Service is not well suited to running these kinds of operations. Neither is the multinational prison industry. They are both better at running sausage factories. Habilitation centres are suited to relatively small commercial and community operations, and they offer enormous scope for effective and innovative programs. They allow Tangata Whenua, Pasific Island or other groups to address particular cultural or religious needs. The tragedy of the public vs private prison debate is that this kind of solution gets lost in the fray.

I don’t see what Nandor urges as incompatible with what National is doing. It is all about choice, and choosing the best operator for each sort of prison. Sometimes that may be Dept of Corrections. Sometimes it may be an international player with experience in the area, and sometimes it might be a small local provider.

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