Labour supports league tables

December 7th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Isaac Davison at NZ Herald reports:

Taxpayer-funded prisons should be ranked in so the performance of private and public prisons can be accurately compared, the Labour Party says.

I agree. If only Labour could be consistent on league tables.

Justice spokesman said it was difficult to understand how well private prison operator Serco was performing in its management of Mt Eden Correctional Facility because it was not known how it measured up against public prisons.

He felt the public needed a better measure of the company’s achievements, especially given the cost of the Government’s contract with Serco – $300 million over six years.

The Department of Corrections published the overall performance of its 19 prisons, but did not divide up the results by facility. Serco’s report cards were released every three months.

Mr Chauvel’s comments came after Corrections deputy chief executive Christine Stevenson revealed Serco had vastly improved its performance at the 966-bed Mt Eden prison in 2012.

She said the British-based Serco had a “tough” first year in charge of the facility, failing nearly half of its targets. But it had turned itself around in its second year and was meeting 95 per cent of its targets.

Excellent. It is good to see a prison operator have clear targets to meet, be reported against, and be held accountable for.

Mr Chauvel said this claim was hard to evaluate without knowing the percentage of targets that taxpayer-funded prisons were passing.

Ms Stevenson confirmed the department was collecting performance measures for individual prisons and would publish report cards next year.

Good – the comparison will be interesting.

But she warned the information could present a misleading picture.

“It’s quite a tricky thing to do. Our prisons … are all a bit different. You have Rolleston Prison, which is low-security, doesn’t have a fence, through to Auckland [Prison], which is maximum security.”

Which is not a reason to not have the individual data, but to possibly have categories within the table

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7 Responses to “Labour supports league tables”

  1. dave (821 comments) says:

    “It is good to see a prison operator have clear targets to meet, be reported against, and be held accountable for.”

    Indeed, if only National could be consistent on clear targets so that National Standards can provide clear targets to meet, and be reported against.

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  2. barry (1,191 comments) says:

    Dave – the national standards are like they are because the terrified teacher unions wanted them to be very messy so that they various results couldnt be compared. Thats one thing the minister gave in one.
    But now that everyone can see the uselessness of them – everyone is calling for better measures so that the results can be truly compared – even the TEACHERS are complaining that they are not very useful (which is what they wanted in the first case).

    So no doubt the Minister will comply with the complaints and make the standards really comparable.

    Then youll hear some real gnashing of teeth and wailing and tears from the teachers as the bad teachers are revealed…..

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  3. alex (304 comments) says:

    Well Serco has consistently failed to meet targets in the past, so it will be interesting to see if they have sorted their shit out. Frankly, I doubt it. Private prisons have no incentives to rehabilitate prisoners, because they rely on reoffending to keep their facility full.

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  4. flipper (4,327 comments) says:

    Seriously, this is not at present possible.

    To compare the state owned/run institutions with private is impossible because they have fundamentally differing philosophies. Smith may be a “good” administrator (he was previously with MSD and CYPs) but his knowledge of Corrections and what drives rehabilitation is zero. But even then it is not ALL his fault.

    The Department of Corrections may be the last bastion of state union driven sloth.
    The rigid staffing rules, and union dictated hours of work, condemn state institutions to a second or third class status.
    Get rid of the state unions, set up identical funding models, performance targets, with identical incentives/penalties, and some useful comparison might emerge. Until then, the taxpayer’s costs will escalate, and real state institution performance continue will the current slide to a sub-nadir position :)

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  5. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    Brilliant idea. This is one idea of Labour’s National should unashamedly steal. To say it’s not possible to compare a private prison alongside a state-run one is nonsense. Obviously no one will expect a maximum security prison, housing the worst of the worst, to match a minimum security prison on factors such as prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. But you can set different targets for maximum and minimum security facilities and then report whether or not they’ve met them. Same with other factors.

    The one thing we should be comparing – because it’s the most imporant measure of all – is problematic, and that’s the effectiveness of each facility at deterring reoffending. Serco have very good results on this where they are able to keep a prisoner for the duration of their sentence, or at least for most of the latter stretch before they’re released. However in Australia and NZ, where they have only a limited number of prisons and where the respective Corrections Departments keep churning people in and out, a comparison of post-prison effectiveness isn’t possible.

    But aside from that, it’s perfectly possible to rate one prison against another and NZ should start doing it today.

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  6. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    I *love* the idea of league tables!
    let’s do it for state schools vs charter schools too, Labour!

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  7. mikenmild (12,316 comments) says:

    Anyone see what might be some relevant differences between league tables for a dozen prisons and league tables for 2,500 schools?

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