The prison business

Mr Key confirmed that National will allow competitive tendering for the management of prisons on a case-by-case basis.

As Metiria notes:

How is the free market the answer to the problems of running a prison system? The key to a successful business is repeat customers. That creates a perverse incentive.

Yup, can you see Lock ‘Em Up Corp tendering their business case for the right to manage Mt Eden Prison? – We will equip prisoners with the recidivist skills they need in the community to commit more inept repeat crimes so that they return to the place that they really belong- behind bars. We’ll make sure through overcrowding that our regular clients share their knowledge with young first time customers.  We’ll ensure that taxpayer funding is well spent getting these people back behind bars (oh and into our private shareholder dividends and director bonuses).

40 Comments Posted

  1. “The NYC transformation was also 2 years after the water supply was changed. Millions of coincidental occurrences can be found, …”

    Yes, that’s why I meticulously pointed out why it couldn’t be easily written off as mere coincidence.

    “…however, let’s look at another place.”

    Perhaps you do have to become as extreme as Saudi for it to work well. No thanks.

  2. Valis
    The NYC transformation was also 2 years after the water supply was changed. Millions of coincidental occurrences can be found, however, let’s look at another place.

    I lived in Saudi Arabia for a few years in the 70s. It was wonderful (apart from not being able to get a glass of decent wine outside of Embassey Row). I got so used to the safety there, that I once left a month’s pay, in a plastic bag, on the dashboard of my car, with the roof down in the middle of Riyadh; it was still there a few hours later when I returned from visiting a colleague. (Yes, we got paid in cash out into plastic bags – bulky to say the least!) Over there the punishment for theft is behanding; no one stole three times! The punishment for assault is being thrashed by a big burly fit fella with something like a cat-o’-nine-tails. Murder and rape – you can’t do it twice – you’re dead after the first time!

    The Saudi (Islam) approach to punishment may not be as safe as I would like – there are too many examples of the wrong person being hanged by the neck until dead in British Jails for me to be sanguine about it – but it definitely does show that a zero tolerance/harsh punishment regime makes for a safer place to live.

  3. I suspect NYC being safe may change, the city has a lot of financial problems so budgets are going to have to be cut. Maybe Caeser Bloomberg can donate some of his money to pay for the mess.

  4. Have a read of Freakonomics, where there is an analysis of the reasons crime has dropped in NYC and elsewhere. The most interesting is that crime started dropping about 16 years after abortion became legal in New York state. This might seem amazing, but his analysis shows that the same thing happened in other States, which is easy to see as abortion became legal in different years through the 70’s and the crime rate always drops 16 years later in each one. There’s a definite correlation. He doesn’t draw absolute conclusions, but postulates that fewer unwanted children might lead to fewer criminals. He does draw the conclusion that zero tolerance has only a slight positive effect and gets way more credit than it deserves.

  5. I’d like to look at the American experience for a minute, and cast some new insights into the wind and see what reaction they receive.

    In the 1980s I had a business with a branch in New York City. Whenever I went there I was met by a driver and shuttled everywhere I needed to be, even three blocks down Madison Avenue I’d be taken car park to car park. The streets were NOT SAFE.

    Last year my daughter and a friend decided to visit there as part of a ‘trip home’ to Canada, where my daughter was born. I gave her all the necessary instructions on safety in the city, and off she went, having made up her mind to ignore the old man’s advice (kids, sheesh!). When she came back, two months later than planned as she’d done some ‘work’ in The City, her comments were strange. “It’s really cool Dad, I felt safer there than I do in Porirua” was one example – so I had to go and check for myself.

    NYC IS SAFE! It’s amazing!

    I asked some old friends what had happened, they responded ‘zero tolerance’! NO CRIME is acceptable; not spitting on the street, dropping garbage, mugging, jay walking, murder, shop lifting, extortion with menaces (aka washing windscreens), NOTHING.

    Now THAT is the kind of Aotearoa I would like to live in, rather than this place where my daughter has a driver pick her up in town on Saturday night/Sunday morning so she can’t be intimidated or robbed on a main street by a bunch of (often) underage yobs.

  6. weedeater – you’ll surely know of Nandors excellent reputation in the field of Justice? You’ll concede that he (backed by the Party) was lightyears ahead of all comers and progressed the cause for justice significantly. You’re not just taking pot-shots at the Greens are you?

  7. bugger private AND public prisons.

    something not quite there in the green party law and order advocacy again…

    Prohibition creates the black market and crime, without limiting drug use. NZ is getting the worst of both worlds, and as closed-minded prohibitionist John Key will never make NZ better, safer and richer.

  8. “Don’t knock it guys, Jeannette (sic) might have shares in that business.”

    Not surprisingly for big bro, this is more recycled slander, this time from Act in 2005. Virtually every claim in this mess is wrong. Interesting that he chose to use this in the middle of an unrelated thread. Just looking for any opportunity to spread lies about Greens.

    From Jeanette’s press release at the time:

    “The Waitaki Bill was a government bill, setting up a process to develop a plan under the RMA for the Waitaki River, because the regional council had not done so. There were so many competing demands water and no process for sorting them out.

    The bill proposed a ministerial-appointed board to develop a plan and put the applications on hold until the plan was in place.

    The select committee unanimously proposed extensive amendments. That includes Opposition members. I was one vote out of 12. The amendments limited the power of the minister by setting criteria, ensured the board was chaired by someone with judicial experience and that the members had the necessary skills to consider all the issues, and ensured the ecological values of the river would be protected before any water was allocated for other things. None of the amendments created any additional delays for Meridian.

    None of this had anything to do with wind power or the price of electricity and to suggest it did is a politically motivated attack in an election campaign designed to destroy my reputation.”

    Then there’s some new slander:

    “Fitzsimmons (sic) then waited till the stink died down and quietly sold the shares (or transferred them to a trust, thereby hiding her interest) prior to the 2005 election.”

    There was no register of interests for MPs then, but at the time she said:

    “I have copies of at least six articles about it in major daily newspapers and have been interviewed about it on radio. A one-minute check of the company report online would have revealed it too.

    I had been advocating wind power for environmental reasons for at least 20 years when the first opportunity came to support a New Zealand-owned firm planning to manufacture wind turbines in New Zealand, creating local jobs and using New Zealand-developed innovative technology. I am proud of that investment and have made no secret of it.”

    Windflow Technologies did not even supply Meridian, so another reason there was no conflict of interest. Jeanette sold her shares when she became Spokesperson for Energy Efficiency. And again from a press release:

    “Wind and hydro are complementary, not in competition. Hydro backs up wind in calm conditions, just as hydro needs wind in dry winters. I had no possible reason to oppose Project Aqua other than its effects on the values of the river and the community.

    Ironically, the largest builder of wind farms in New Zealand is Meridian, also the developer of Project Aqua. If Aqua was bad for wind, why did they propose it?

    If a hydro development cannot meet the requirements to protect the values of the river, it should not proceed. We had no opportunity to find out whether Aqua could, as it was withdrawn before any hearings took place.”

    I expect we can add this one to big bro’s list of lies that he’ll never retract.

  9. As I recall the experiment with privately managed prisons in New Zealand was a great success and those most closely involved with rehab etc said so at the time.
    The decision to cancel the contract with the Australian firm was driven purely by ideology rather than performance.
    THis proposal is not based on US experience but on recent experience right here in NZ.
    Go back and look at the records.

  10. Yep. Let’s leave Customer Service and Retention to Government. After all, it was the Ministry of Justice who trained the fines collection call center operators that ‘the customer is the most important person, and you will be judged on their response to customer satisfaction surveys’. The customer was defined as the person who owed money to the country for an unpaid fine!

    . . . . . . . . . Hello sir, yes, this is the Ministry of Justice calling. Just wondering if you have a few dollars to spare to put towards the fine you owe for selling P to minors. No! Oh. Right then sir. Perhaps you could tell me when it would be convenient for me to ask again? Right, when hell freezes over; OK then, I’ll put that down as January 2020 and see how we’re doing. That’s OK, well thank you too sir. I wonder if you would mind if I just popped you through to our independent, automated, customer service level analysis system, it only takes a moment – there’s only one question for you to answer? You would, why that’s fantastic sir. Thank you, and have a really nice day! Kia Ora.

  11. shunda – stop harping, listen to the explanation that has been offered to you time and time again and think critically about your simplistic one liners. How many times has the Section 59 issue, free of the propaganda you seem to revel in flinging about, been presented to you? If every time you posted, someone countered with, ‘John Key told lies about his knowledge of the Exclusive Brethren plans’, would you feel irked? You are a stuck record and making no gains from it. Use you energy to build something useful. Constant attempts to erode do nothing.

  12. Shunda barunda Says:
    October 29th, 2008 at 9:45 am

    > And what is the track record of the left in reducing crime? absolutely bloddy dismal!!

    what I see, looking over the last 10 years, is that the track record of those who think you can reduce crime by making prison sentences is pretty dismal. Labour have raised our imprisonment rate to easily the second highest in the OECD, and violent crime has not fallen.

    The burglary rate has fallen, but I think it’s more likely the economic boom has made people more likely to be able to afford what they want, rather than less likely to steal it if they can’t.

  13. “The sad thing in this thread is that the advocates of privatising prisons overlook the track record of the very same people who want to start this new round of selling the family silver.”

    And what is the track record of the left in reducing crime? absolutely bloddy dismal!!
    Maybe the “family silver” wouldn’t have to be sold if the people who ran these organisations did their jobs properly. Anything state owned is notoriously inefficient, how other than at least partial private ownership are NZ tax payers going to get best value for their money?

  14. fastbike, your link: “the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, will cause the prison population to rise to between 71 900 to 80 000 by 2007”
    So are you holding private prison operators responcible for this Act?

    I agree with you in part about “Your ideaology is like a knee jerk reaction “govt = bad, private = good”.”

    It’s not so much a question of who owns the prisons in as much as whether or not they’re continually being challenged to operate efficiently. The key to a market system is having multiple vendors (providers of prison services in this case) competing to provide the best service. Typically socialist systems operate as monopolies, my adage is more like: competition = good, monopoly = bad, whether they’re privately owned or publicly owned, whether it’s a monopoly on labour, a service, or in the production of goods.

  15. Here’s the working link.

    The sad thing in this thread is that the advocates of privatising prisons overlook the track record of the very same people who want to start this new round of selling the family silver. Apart from Key most of National’s front bench are the same as the 1990’s failures who brought us Air NZ, NZ Rail, BNZ etc. Your ideaology is like a knee jerk reaction “govt = bad, private = good”. Our opposition is pragmatic – we want to see what is different this time around.

    And be very careful what you call socialist. If throwing billions of tax payers money to bail out greed and avarice isn’t socialism, then what is. John Key made his millions by moving money around the same system that is now busy bleeding the tax payer dry.

  16. Don’t knock it guys, Jeannette might have shares in that business.

    Agenda, 07.08.04
    Jeanette Fitzsimmons
    Interviewed by Simon Dallow
    Simon Dallow:
    “So what do you see as the answer for our future electricity generation needs?”

    Jeanette Fitzsimmons:
    “The answer for the future is a jigsaw. It’s a number of pieces that have to fit together, but together they can work. The first thing is much greater energy efficiency. We are wasting 20-30% of all the electricity we produce in technologies that are not up to scratch and wasteful behaviour comes on top of that. We can make big changes there quite cheaply.
    “Secondly, for electricity, the big coming thing is wind. Yesterday I stood on the top of the Tararuas at the opening of the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm and it was awesome. They were actually beautiful machines, beautifully designed, totally silent. I stood right underneath them and couldn’t hear a thing. That’s producing 90 megawatts. There’s scope for a lot more of that. There are very good wind sites all over New Zealand.”

    This is the woman who chaired the Environment Select Committee through its hearings on Project Aqua in the months just prior to this interview, who’s vote was crucial to the quashing of that scheme, and who never revealed to that committee that she had a conflict by owning well over 100,000 shares in listed wind turbine manufacturer Windflow Technology, a company that stood to benefit markedly from the line her committee was drawing in the sand over the viability of major new hydro projects. And her response, when it was revealed she’d never told Parliament of her shareholding in Windflow Technology? “Well, it’s no secret that I’m an advocate for efficient energy production.’’ Nothing to see here; because I’m Green, and therefore better than you, I can have conflicts – you can’t.

    Fitzsimmons then waited till the stink died down and quietly sold the shares (or transferred them to a trust, thereby hiding her interest) prior to the 2005 election.

  17. I’m looking forward to when NZ allows someone to create the show
    “Rehabilitation” or “The Running Man”

    Both shows will deal with any overcrowding in prisons.

  18. fastbike, your link doesn’t work. Give up on your socialist beliefs, whenever it’s tried it collapses. You’d be naive to think we’d get a different outcome here.

  19. “Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done, without fear or favour.”

    So the greens will reopen the Kahui twins murder then?
    What a load of meaningless left wing rhetoric.
    We don’t have a “justice” system, we have a legal system, don’t confuse that with justice Alistair, there is no such thing in this country at the moment.

  20. After 2 years in a custody dispute that’s put restrictions on and created uncertainty in the lives of the 7 people involved, cost tens of thousands dollars and, to put it simply, demonstrated what a total fuck-up it is, I’d go for privatisation of some areas of the justice system.

    It’s a system that’s a burueacratic monopoly that, as a result of history is held in such reverence, it’s vast faults go largely unacknowledged, let alone unchallenged.

  21. Oh yes, government should definitely run corner dairies and bicycle repair shops. Those are essential regalian services that must not be trifled with.

    Is that what you’re looking for, Blue? A black and white answer? Wow those Greens are extremists?

    The extremists are those who believe that the administration of justice can be privatized. Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done, without fear or favour. It must be accountable, directly accountable, to the people’s elected representatives, and not to some company’s shareholders.

  22. Well, if prisons can be privately run, why not the police too?

    Same principles apply. I’m sure private security firms could tender for the work on a piecemeal basis. If they can “get the same job done”, “cheaper”…

    Start by defining the job. Then define what “cheaper” means. Then think about it some more, and define the terms again.

  23. “Once again the Greens show that they are the party who care more about criminals than victims.”

    That’s a huge non sequitur even for big bro.

  24. Agree with Optimist.

    It’s a management question. Can the services and outcomes the public demands be arrived at, at a lower cost?

    Who cares who owns it? If the state can do the same job cheaper, then great. If they can’t, then get out of the road.

    Where is the measurement, Metiria? Or is it all just ideology with you?

  25. Well frog you and labour have had 9 years to reduce crime and all you have given NZ is a spectacular failier of law and order.
    Seems to me that the left should shut up and let someone else have a go.

  26. “And here’s the shameful bit – these privatised systems – while being promoted as increasing public safety – do absolutely nothing to fight the causes of crime nor lower real crime”
    Fastbike, what do you propose to lower real crime? – all we see here are negatives regarding policy that at the least should be robustly debated.
    Every initiative is (briefly) idealogically analysed – if it dosn’t fit the old socialist mantra it gets slammed – is this the future you want for your children?
    Not me.

  27. Yes I’m sure the model can change, and I think it is a shame to assume that the public sector has all the answers. No doubt these companies are staffed with some ex prison wardens who have a few ideas.

    The wonderful thing about the private sector is that you can tie bonus payments to particular outcomes and watch the fun ensue. The public sector doesn’t exactly shine with innovation.

    Of course you have to be very careful what incentives you offer. People respond to incentives, but sometimes more strongly than you would like!

  28. Any comment on the other aspects of the policy – they actually look pretty good to me?
    I have been reading this blog for a few weeks now, and it is hard to get any sense of Environmental concern that is not wrapped up in a bunch of other stuff – if you guys really cared for the planet and our children you would promote policy and a message that is affordable and achievable – and doesn’t piss off the people that can and do make a difference.
    Looks like a sell out to me, who would have thought a few years ago that the Greens would roll over for a sniff of third hand power. Please prove me wrong someone.

  29. Fastbike, private operators of prisons will strive to meet their contractual obligations, if a government wants to put a reduced re-offending rate into the contract that can be negotiated.
    You seem intent on blaming these prison operators for societal problems that have nothing to do with them.
    Well fastbike, I hold you personally responsible for the recent floods in Yemen, and frankly, given that you’re to blame for so many deaths I think life behind bars is too good for you.

  30. The trouble is Optimist, you can wish for what you want but the model the Nats are talking about is the one used in the US and UK. The US has one of the highest proportion of its population behind bars. You can be sure that many of the same companies active in the US and UK prison industry will be active here.
    According to a recent review

    These companies are paid per inmate per day so the more people are locked up, the more money they make. Private prisons hold people for longer than state prisons, fund right-wing ‘law and order’ politicians and lobby the Government for harsher sentences.
    In the UK more people are being sent to prison and sentences are getting longer. The prison population has been rising since 1993, when it was 45,000, to its current figure of around 65,000. At the same time, a massive prison building programme has been underway involving three prisons currently under construction, three more planned, and extensions to existing prisons.

    And here’s the shameful bit – these privatised systems – while being promoted as increasing public safety – do absolutely nothing to fight the causes of crime nor lower real crime.

  31. I think Metiria is confused about the customer. The customer in this case is the taxpayer, represented by the bureaucrats who negotiate the contracts. Although if we could find a way of getting crims to buy their way into prison, that might be nice 🙂

    If they want to put bonuses into the contract for ‘reforming’ criminals, then perhaps some innovative new approaches will come out of it.

    Lock ‘Em Up Corp might be a suitable name.

    But given the current socialist naming environment, I would suggest something like KiwiPen would be more palatable to the voters.

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