Private prisons are not cheaper

Last night the parliament debated the first reading of the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Bil.

I have blogged about this issue frequently, but not yet addressed the key argument of National – that private prisons are cheaper.

So I used my speech last night to refer to both Australian and US research that showed that privately run prisons are not demonstrably cheaper for the public than publicly run prisons. Below are some extracts and links to the documents.

What is of most concern of course, is that if the cost to the public is essentially the same, where are the massive profits coming from? That can only be from a significant reduction in the provision of rehab services, health services, retraining, significant staff reductions and other core services that help to reduce the reoffending rate of prisoners. Hence the argument that as the key to a successful business is repeat customers, providing a perverse incentive for private prison management to minimise programs that reduce reoffending.

The US Department of Justice report, Emerging Issues on Privatised Prisons clearly showed that the privatisation model simply mimicked the public sector in practically every critical way. The promises from private companies in the US of 20% savings simply did not eventuate. Any modest savings made were by reductions in staffing and other labour related costs. The report concluded that the amount of savings in corrections costs “will not revolutionise modern correctional practices.” In other words has no practical impact on the cost of running prisons or on the practice of running prisons.

An Australian report, “Privatisation and New South Wales Prisons: Value for Money and Neo-liberal Regulation” published just last year also showed that the privatisation of prison did not result in value for money or a significant reduction in costs. In fact, the paper shows that the rhetoric of cost effectiveness undermined alternative criteria for assessment, such as safety, educational outcomes, or reduced reoffending. This is where the National government is duping the public. By misleading the public on the efficiency of private prison management they are diverting attention from the most important issue of all – the effective use of taxpayers money to keep the community safe.

64 Comments Posted

  1. Well Jh; I’ve read enough of your posts to know you are far from silly, are very well informed, are most likely gifted in many ways – but forgive me if I mis-understand; it seems you cannot spell the name of our Native people – repeatedly so…….racial vilification? Or something like…..nothing personal, I’d give anyone a serve for being beneath and beyond their natural talent – but then, things can look harsh on a page, one on which I use stream of conscious thinking – not enough time here to re-write the ‘Treaty’ though we may well need to do so….if I’m wrong – upon my own head a thousand times Senor.

  2. # Mark Says:
    March 31st, 2009 at 10:16 am

    JH; Sorry if I upset you – but some of your stuff is the most intentionally unhelpfull verbiage (not to say cruel and illegal) that I have read anywhere

  3. Sri Lankans are, in the main, delightful people, and almost as fanatical about cricket as their Indian cousins!

    Dilkush and I pay $100 per month to the family there to make sure the children are properly fed and able to do their school work. Their mother manages to rent her home, pay her utility bills, feed and clothe the children and herself, and feed the family on either side of her ‘house’ on that miserable pittance. We are proud of her and her childrens’ accomplishment. When the time comes we will pay for her kids to go to private universities, probably in Ozzie, just as we (the extended family) have done for our own children; we can afford it and it leaves another place for a child who qualifies for the free education over there.

    Note those two special words “qualifies” and “free”, concepts that would stand our tertiary education system in great stead.

    Go well, live long & prosper Mark – you are an interesting correspondent.

  4. Strings
    After all we agree on ‘education’ principles – and more strength to you for sponsoring a family in need. I spent three or four seasons playing Cricket with a (mostly) Sri Lankan Team in Australia, and, apart from their constant demands for me to perform the Haka – I found them to be the most delightful community of people – I count them amongst my best friends even today, and am always dreaming of those ‘glory days’ (we won the Premiership three years running).
    I was in Indonesia when I became appraised of third world conditions – amazing to find that ten dollars can change someone’s life hey?
    Yer, they tend to shoot a lot of people there too.
    I returned to NZ in 2000 and was amazed to find where we had got ourselves in the twenty years when I was distracted by OZ.
    One of the aforementioned suicides was a young man who was refused all Medical care in a NZ jail – his death was a direct result of the protracted torture inflicted (completely unneccesary).
    Yes , we have a luvly set of rules – promises largely unkept I’m sorry to report.
    And one of my gripes is that we can’t access suicide figures in NZ – knowledge we can’t be trusted with I guess…

  5. Absolutely

    Mind you, it would be good if even the basic three were taught! I read this week that teachers are complaining that new starts at primary school are being sent there unable to read or write! I thought that was what we paid them for!

  6. Mark
    No trouble, and time is an available resource.

    My hope is that we will soon be able to get our schools back to teaching children about realities, as opposed to ‘creating an environment in which children can learn for themselves’. One of the biggest things I have found in my conversations in prisons is the total shock some of these young men have had when faced with a competitive world where you have to WIN things like jobs. IN school they are not compared to each other or a standard, nor encouraged to compete – unless they are good at sport. This has, imho, created a generation that think there is an Utopian society, sadly the truth is not what they expect and rebellion is the easiest response.

    I see youths from the bottom decile schools. They are treated as ‘deprived’ because they live in a low income area, and are not encouraged, by anyone, to seek to better themselves through learning. I compare this with the children in a family my wife and I ‘foster’ in a tiny, and very poor, village in Sri Lanka where she (my wife) comes from. These people are poor to an extent no one here in New ZEaland could understand, and there is NO welfare system to look after them However, the mother of the six children, who is a widow, takes her children to school EVERY DAY and presents them in pristine uniform with homework done. They are ANXIOUS to learn, and their mother is INSISTANT that they learn. They are improving their lot, and the eldest, a now 16 year old girl, is well on her way to qualifying for medical school.

    The Sri Lankan children KNOW that their only way out of poverty is hard work and education, the New Zealand children know that sitting around and not bothering at school will result in their being fed, clothed and housed by others.

    The Sri Lankan children know there is competition for places at University, and they have to prove every day that they will make better use of the investment than others. New Zealand children are told that they are ‘doing OK’, that it is ‘not fair’ to compare them to others or societal standards.

    IN Sri Lanka, being sentenced to jail means living on a handful of boiled rice in an open air steel mesh shell and hoping your family will bring you extra food to sustain your health. IN New ZEaland going to jail guarantees you three healthy meals a day, medical treatment, proper sanitary and ablution facilities, access to entertainment through books radio and televisions, and money to ‘keep you going for a while’ on release.

    There is significantly less crime in Sri Lanka. (I do not count the terrorism of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as crime – these people are shot, not sentenced to jail.)

  7. JH; Sorry if I upset you – but some of your stuff is the most intentionally unhelpfull verbiage (not to say cruel and illegal) that I have read anywhere

  8. Strings; OK good – then it’s been worthwhile for me – you feel we need to terrify people whereas I feel we need to help them (mostly for the first time in their lives) to find their constructive strengths and their place in society.
    IME the terrified ones only pull crimes they can get away with – they are not reformed in any way (in fact they tend to kill witnesses.).
    I gave up the work after a few suicides by people in their thirties….that and a general lack of Community (Govt.) support about direction….terrified people aren’t doing too well out there….but I thank you for your time and trouble.

  9. Mark

    I’ve been a prison visitor, focused on people in the 18-30 age group with “no” family, since I resigned my warrant after 30 years as a Scout Leader (England, Canada and here).

    I think that gives me a bit of an insight, and I know that the deterrent aspect of prison is virtually non-existent. Yes; it creates 10 people who are angry for every 1 that is terrified of ever going back, that ratio is the wrong way round – we need to terrify 10 out of 11 – there will always be a percentage of amoral offenders who believe taking what they want is their right.

  10. OK – just imagine then.
    Just imagine you are ‘on the radar’ – literally followed by Police looking for a Decoration, or a pat on the head from the Sarge – I’ve no doubt that’s what is going on with this Auckland boy (even the ‘victim’ wants nothing to do with it). No BB, I’m not defending him.
    Imagine say, you need health care, or are withdrawing from your drug of choice….there the Christmas bird goes cold. Suffer and die, or not – no one cares – Lesson No1.
    Imagine you are freezing cold all the time.
    Imagine the Staff break every rule ever written – and your Lawyer takes all your money and does nothing.
    Humanity confiscated.
    From those I’ve spoken to, Jail is already cruel and unusual punishment in Godzone – penalties the Judge never mentioned.
    I suppose the word ‘Inhuman’ comes to mind as does ‘Medieveal’.
    The people I’ve met coming out the other side exhibit a cold and determined sociological anger – from the experience of my volunteer work, for every ‘reformed’ (read terrified) customer, our current system creates ten monsters, that eventually have to be locked away for ever.
    I don’t have a for and against stance, can only report what I’ve seen. But Gerrit has kindly furnished further examples above and it’s not a rarity so much as a rule. There has Got to be a better way. And I’ve seen that way work for young offenders.
    With the Americanisation of NZ (don’t know why you love Saudi’s – is it the hand chopping bizzo?), we can expect to have a million Citizens studying at our Crime Universities, Rock Colleges etc.
    Not wishing to offend(ha) but, I get the strong impression you know nought of the realities – have you been there gentle Strings?
    Anyone who has worked in Prisons or been there, will (maybe) fill you in.
    That’s the other thing – impatience with those who live in a pink cloud.
    Ah well I wasn’t going to do this – ‘agree to disagree’ and all that.
    Prisoners rights never got a Vote and never will – but there’s a world out there, of which the unwary should beware.
    These people are not in a Motel – a common mis-conception…..that’s what I mean by brutal; violent, dishonest, barbaric, unjust, 17th century denial of humanity.
    Speak your views by all means, but I’d love to hear of your experiences of Jail.

  11. Heard on Waiata this morning that offenders needed to be exposed to Te Reo and Maori kitanga (otherwise you won’t get to the root causes). I think the idea is that they have gone culturally off the rails. I think every culture has it’s right and wrong system and i could fit into the Japanese or Chinese system, I think… The system of utu….?

    Meiria was heard on Nat Rad saying it is a proven fact that there is racism in the justice system (or similar)…. presumably this is racial profiling and eg when a rich white boy gets off, but the implication is probably mischievous.

  12. I could ask why taxpayers on low incomes , without kids should support total strangers babies #3 and 4 too, but I’ve decided not to as it is a don’t go there issue (where red is not green/ RC’s etc).

  13. Mark

    Yes, lets agree to disagree on the causes and furtherance of “crime”
    surely you jest when you say, about punishment, “there is the ‘brutal course’ which we already have”! Surely you don’t think that today’s prisons are in any way ‘brutal’ against any definition (and I don’t count the Saudi approach as brutal – it’s capital)!
    please tell me how you see today’s punishments for breaking society’s common rules as ‘brutal”. I really do want to understand you perspective – I doubt that I will agree with it, but understanding is very possible.

  14. Strings;- We might just have to agree to disagree on the causes and furtherance of “crime” – yes there is the ‘brutal course’ which we already have – just not the Saudi version. I get the feeling you know the story but from one side – which you are free to do. I remain unconvinced of your figuring – quite wholeheartedly so….I shan’t be changing your mind (can see that) and I don’t think you’ll convince me either.

  15. Those bas*ards!

    Being all white and, you know, middle class. How dare they! Forcing their colonialist values, like “not killing people, not breaking parole, and not assaulting people” onto others.

    Face it, Gerrit. It’s all your fault. And if it’s not yours, it’s mine.

  16. Perhaps we should pay to have him taught to read and write and then he wopuldn’t want to act in such an anti-social manner.. OUCH, who woke me up!

  17. BB, I can’t agree he should be locked up for life. However, parole should be a zero tolerance privilege, ANY infringement and you are IMMEDIATELY back in the hole.
    It’s as simple as dealing with a 2 year old, if you (the rule maker) aren’t prepared to carry out the rules then it’s best to not set them to start with. Something the vermin parents of these a-holes didn’t do, which probably is what lead our dear Bailey to be the wunderkind he is today.

  18. >>This germ should be locked up for life.

    I’m sure the poor little dear is just misunderstood. Colonialism and Douglas are to blame, etc etc.

    One more strike. Goodbye for life. Get these low-lifes off our streets for good.

  19. FillYou

    “the basic fact is that a vast number of recidivists are functionally illiterate”

    So we need a MUCH BETTER education system. It is the role of schools to teach reading and writing, not prisons.

    “what are they meant to do about earning a living if they have no options”
    Get a job where reading and writing are not a prerequisite. Labouring on a building site, cleaning offices, managing the “stop/go” signs on road repair areas, washing dishes in restaurants, etc., etc..

    There are many jobs for which literacy is not a prime requirement, however, they tend not to pay well, and so it is easier for these people to steal from others rather than live within their earning capability (sounds a bit like a bludger life to me except bludgers at least are somewhat honest in their approach to getting money for doing nothing that adds value).

    “is this a telling example of how right-wingers are only able to think one,maybe two at best, steps ahead”
    No, its an example of how thinking WAY ahead leads you to look way back and understand what the evidence proves. IN the same way that recent ‘evidence based studies” of what works in education are causing a rethink on all the ‘new math’ and ‘new reading’ and new everything else that has always been studied’ initiatives and pointing out why they are failing to lift the average literacy rate!

    “maybe we should look to countries that do better than us at this”
    Interesting that you do not quote any. When you have evidence to back-up your softie softie approach to societal issues I will read them again, until then I will go back to ignoring you rantings as being of no value and simply the result of an over-beneficial welfare system that allows you to choose live off the rest of us for no good reason.

  20. ‘The views of Strings and the rest of humanity are not necessarily identical’

    Oh dear, and I thought it was you who was unique – just like the rest of us lol

  21. no strings..

    our recidivism rates are because from their first encounters with the justice system..

    ..young offendors are just trained-up for more prison..

    ..the amounts spent/efforts made on rehabilitation are laughable..

    ..the basic fact is that a vast number of recidivists are functionally illiterate.. they are tossed out of prison..unemployable..

    ..what are they meant to do about earning a living..?

    ..if they have no options..

    ..and instead of looking at limb dismemberment as an option..

    ..(creating life-long benificiaries strings..?.. this a telling example of how rightwingers are only able to think one..maybe two at best..steps ahead..?
    (c.f..deregulation=corruption=economic meltdown)..

    maybe we should look to countries that do better than us at this..?

    ( your arab friends..includes most..)

    ..maybe those ‘sensible’ countries that focus on education/training..?


  22. >>you’re beginning to get the hang of my humour

    Ah! My faith in humanity has been restored. Oh! What’s that? I’ve never had any faith in humanity? Oh well…..the thought was there 🙁

    Repeat 10 times on the blackboard: ‘The views of Strings and the rest of humanity are not necessarily identical’

  23. MARK
    Our recidivism rates are so high because our prison system provides no deterrent. Let’s look at places where the crime rate is REALLY low.

    Saudi Arabia is perhaps a good place to start! If you are caught thieving they take off your hand – telling the world what you are and leaving you less than handy at grabbing stuff that doesn’t belong to you. If you’re caught twice you no longer have fingers to steal with. Brutal but effective.
    There’s no need to worry about people who commit murder or rape re-offending!

    Want to look at a place that’s determined to eradicate drugs – Asia is for you! As we all know from reading many instances of Ozzies and Kiwi’s who thought it was OK to break the law!

    When a stay in Prison is regarded as a minor inconvenience that comes with the job (as is the case in NZ it would appear,) recidivism is always going to be the norm. I am told (but don’t have access to the figures so cannot attest,) that the recidivism rate has INCREASED over the last 30 years, a period that seems to align with the increased focus on ‘cure’ rather than ‘punishment’ in our prisons. If the facts are as I have been told, it would suggest that a 1950s approach to the prison regime may be more effective than the 2000s one!
    So in summary Mark, our recidivism rates are so high because we think criminality is an illness that can be cured, rather than antisocial behavior that should be punished.
    You’re beginning to get the hang of my humour – I can tell -_- 🙂 -_-

  24. >I was going to take on the rest of your drivel line by line, but then I realised that you wouldn’t understand.

    Strings, I hope you are only using this ad hominem in jest. Sure, I realise that criticising the opponent rather than what they say is the most common fallacy to found in blogs. But you are well above the need to employ such tactics 🙂

  25. Strings: Sorry to ask your noblness a ‘dumb’ question, but why are our recidivism rates so high?
    Does it mean we reform none? – perhaps even make them worse?
    Hie thee to the sixteenth century – mayhap you can chop off their heads – that is quite persuasively preventative m’lord.

  26. kahikatea Said
    “from what I’ve heard, the principle of abstinence is practiced in moderation in our prisons”
    Yes indeed. You see, while they are BANNED activities, there is insufficient commitment to their policing, and so they take place when they shouldn’t. Funny that.

    Mark Said
    “Abstinenance alone will not offer these people much. They need to be happy”
    WHAT? They need to be happy, in Jail!! Sorry mate, you are on the wrong side of the line, IMnsHO, if you believe that! I want them to be VERY UNHAPPY, so unhappy that they will not risk incarceration again!
    I was going to take on the rest of your drivel line by line, but then I realised that you wouldn’t understand. Hi thee to a trick-cyclist, and let him teach you, on a 120 inch chain, the intricacies of balance and the painful consequences of failure to learn them.

  27. A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)


    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.
    We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

    Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

    Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

    John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

    There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
    It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.

    Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

    The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
    These new slave plantations are not the answer!

    For more information please visit: or email:
    To sign the petition please visit:


    William Thomas
    National Community Outreach Facilitator
    The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
    P.O. Box 156423
    San Francisco, California 94115

  28. Abstinenance alone will not offer these people much. They need to be happy; -whilst we scorn gentleness…..most of the problem with ‘our prisons’, has always been society, which is not anxious of itself,so much as demanding something needs ‘to be seen before it is done’.
    In a systemic fall shute, there is no ther destination, ancient though it may be, but down. It is the absence of hope.
    Thoroughly irresponsible to call the results, all outlined and clear,
    Is the cycle selected directed or objected?
    The State system is not functional from where my community sits. We live by the receding glare of Health Care, and the rise of something called ‘Policy’. Our Public Doctors are hi-jack victims. There is actually too much law enforcement.
    Prisoner Conditions haven’t been progressive enough for the last 200 years’
    Until there is a reform and renewal option, there are cobwebs and sorry bits.
    Could always try a few different Prisons of course; not that I’ve done them all but send us a kiss from Folsom sweetie…..chicago…..chicago…&^%%+.

  29. Strings Says:
    March 27th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    > Kevin
    > I thought there was an excellent alcohol and other drug service available in our prisons, it’s called abstinence.

    from what I’ve heard, the principle of abstinence is practiced in moderation in our prisons.

  30. Kevin
    I thought there was an excellent alcohol and other drug service available in our prisons, it’s called abstinence. Alcohol is a banned substance in prisons and recreational drugs are illegal in the entire country, so there should be no problem with them, the prisoner quits ‘cold-turkey’ and if necessary they are put in touch with appropriate organisations (e.g. AA) on their release.

    As for mental health services, it was my understanding that all normal state provided medical services are provided to prison inmates on an as-needed basis. Surely there are appropriate health professionals (GPs, etc.,) employed by or contracted to the Prison Service whose expertise can identify those in need of these services. If EVERY inmate requires them, there is something VERY wrong, as it is, there is tremendous pressure on the mental health services of all DHBs, and in the same way as others must, convicted criminals jailed for their offenses must surely take their turn in the queue, based on appropriate triage of their condition. After all, in the same way pregnancy is not an illness, criminality is not one either.

    Finally, it must be noted that there is a perfect way of monitoring the performance of a prison – it’s called ‘personal experience’. IN the same way as chain retailers who have to depend on local managers to deliver the expected standards of service in their stores use mystery shoppers, the Department of Corrections could use ‘mystery prisoners’ sending them ‘in’ for a couple of weeks to experience the service provided and reporting on it on their ‘transfer’ out. Perhaps a bit too lateral for you, but nevertheless perfectly practical and pragmatic.

  31. That’s a contract management issues. Create the right incentives, tender the contract, and monitor it.

    >>For example the State is always going to be interested in quality.

    I disagree. I think the state is often interested in deflecting or burying blame. Corrections are beyond a joke.

    >>State provision of the services does not guarantee quality either, but this should be both more likely and more measurable

    I don’t see why. Again, this all comes back to the quality of management and oversight of the contract.

    We’ve tried a state run prison service. It’s clearly a mess. Time to try something else.

  32. I’m not necessarily opposed to the State contracting out some of its functions to the private sector (and I’m a big fan of contracting with the genuine community sector), but what is critical is to have some wise decision-making criteria to determine appropriate situations for this.

    For example the State is always going to be interested in quality. Sometimes quality will be relatively easy to monitor and assure (for example in the case of producing goods or products). However in others it will be difficult or impossible. in the case of prison management, the quality standards that the State is concerned with relate to services and processes, and the State is concerned to see that these standards are maintained constantly.

    As the State is not in a position to either directly observe the quality of services, and there are not good proxy measures that will enable it to be assured of the consistency of quality, the State cannot contract out prison management and be confident that its obligations are being met, particularly when the provider has an incentive (profit) to skimp on quality.

    In fact this is a common problem in agency theory (around the relationships between principals and agents, who will usually have different and potentially conflicting incentives). It also leads to one of the reasons why such contracting out of services usually fails to achieve the expected level of cost saving, especially over the long term.

    The generally observed pattern is that the first time a service is tendered, the outcome is strongly based on price, with sometimes significant cost savings being realised. However, because the principal (funder) cannot observe the quality of services being provided, a relationship of trust with the agent (provider) becomes very important. Therefore when the service is again tendered, provided that there have not been major problems in the first term of the contract, the incumbent has a major advantage and price is a much less significant factor in decision-making.

    Thus the upside of contracting out services is usually over-estimated.

    Of course State provision of the services does not guarantee quality either, but this should be both more likely and more measurable. The Green Party has consistently called for improvements to the quality of prison services. For example it is outrageous that Acohol and other Drug services and mental health services are not available to all inmates who need them. But private management offers no solutions to this problem.

  33. Seeing both sides is always good of course and I don’t see anything Nandor says here that Meyt would take issue with. That’s because Nandor has not changed his tune from when he was in Parliament – there is essentially nothing new here that he didn’t say as an MP and nothing to suggest he wouldn’t be speaking out against National’s plans if he was still in Parliament. If you want to try and twist his current words into some sort of support for the govt’s privitisation plans, you go for it. I’m happy for people to read his actual words and decide for themselves.

  34. Rubbish Vallis. Nandor hits the nail on the head and that is that just as all schools and teachers aren’t equal a state system will mandate a set of behaviours….. (and no doubt the “kill a white” crowd will get their legs in there). Nandor sees both sides (unlike meteria ..who lacks nandors candor).

  35. >>So Nandor is far from supporting private prisons

    Sounds rather supportive to me. Well, as supportive as someone of the green persuasion could possibly be when comes to acknowledging that the private sector might be good for something.

  36. Why not quote the rest, BP?

    Even so, it is hard to escape the suspicion that ACRP was a kind of loss leader for Geotech. The usual experience of private prisons internationally is somewhat different. It is a huge international industry, dominated by a small number of very large players. Few of them are free from allegations of abuse and mistreatment of inmates in at least some of their facilities.

    In addition there is the corrupting influence of the private prison sector on public policy. The huge money to be made from locking people up ensures a powerful lobby aimed at expanding the size of the teat. Media debate around law and order issues is already sensationalist and shallow – imagine the effect of adding big money to the mix.

    There is a third, Green, option between big money and big state. In this context, it means going back to 1989, to the most comprehensive assessment ever done on the NZ prison system. The Roper Report made a number of important findings and recommendations, and it has been ignored by Governments both Right and Left ever since.

    Criminals could not be rehabilitated, it said, if they had never been habilitated in the first place. 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.

    So Nandor is far from supporting private prisons. Shame on you for trying to fool people.

    One wonders if Nandor would have been this honest and open had he still been in the house?

    Lol! This is just the sort of thing he did say in the House, big bro. But of course now that you know he’s on about more than just punishment, you’ll have to revert to flaming him won’t you.

  37. Your main man Nandor seems to like private prisons:

    ” 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.”

  38. I should add that the other problem the red greens have is that (unfortunately) too many people is never the problem. Another one is lack of support due to not enough green and too much red.

  39. I would say that the problem the red greens have is their fuzzy alternative “system” as this example from John Mintos column in The Press demonstrates: “The real problem was not overstayers in the 1970’s and neither is it workers from overseas today, but an economic system which sees workers, migrants or otherwise as a disposable resource to be flicked off when times get tough.” We never hear clearly what the other system is and how it works?

  40. Speaking of low life criminals, what do the Greens have to say about this…

    “The teenager who murdered Scottish tourist Karen Aim on a Taupo street will be behind bars for at least 12 ½ years.

    Jahche Broughton, 15, was sentenced in the High Court at Rotorua today”

    Do you guys really think 12 years is sufficient for a cold blooded murder?

  41. reddeath

    “@big bro-
    What effect do you see this having on rehabilitation?”

    I don’t care what effect it has on rehabilitation, it is not the job of the public to rehabilitate criminals, they are in prison as punishment.

  42. metiria..

    ..will we ever see/hear/read you articulating the case for the ending of prohibition against cannabis..?

    ..either the ‘medical’..or social justice..or rational..arguments will do..

    cos’..y’know..!’s been a while..


  43. Privatisation = cost cutting. In Human Health terms it kills people. Private Prisons will raise our already unacceptable suicide rate and lower (if at all possible) rehabilitation rates – it is literally the ‘too hard’ basket and any civilized 21st century Colony should be moving away from such mendacious notions. The fact is we’ve GOT to care for these people – that is if lowering crime rates is at all important, which, I guess it can’t be.
    When will our Public Servants realize we are not the US or Great Britain – we have wonderfull advantages over such countries yet negate them with a blind copycat style of governance.
    “Law is often the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of
    an individual.”: Thomas Jefferson to I. Tiffany, 1819

  44. What effect do you see this (Private Management of Prisons) having on rehabilitation?

    Personally I would hope that the prisons would be run in a far less prisoner-friendly manner, and the prisoner’s time there would be the major rehabilitation effort. It is clear to me that the underlying concept for imprisonment is punishment, which should in itself be enough to stop a prisoner from ever wanting to be imprisoned again. However, colour TVs, single rooms with en-suite facilities, access to the internet, and all the other ‘goodies’ that prisoners have today seem more like an extended vacation than a punishment!

    There is no evidence that the current approach is rehabilitating OR deterring criminals. Our prisons are more full than ever and if the less socially protective and less deterrent were counted, we would need to double the number of beds available in our prison inventory. Perhaps it is time to look at establishing a regime in our prisons that is a true deterrent to re-offending, starting with double or triple bunking the existing cells so that we don’t have to spend any more on building luxurious residences for society’s undesirables.

  45. Greg says “Also the rant that private = efficient, public = wasteful is a useful fiction for those who don’t want to spend the time understanding the problem.”

    Having worked in both, in my experience the difference in efficiency and attitude was night and day.

    Metiria – many of the examples in you link comparing private to public showed things like better trained, better governance, ability to adapt faster, etc.

    If a private prison does nothing more than sharpen up the public prison system that’s currently in a shambles, then that alone will be worth it.

    Why the fear of someone making a profit? It’s actually a healthy thing for a country and an economy for companies to make profits. Without profits, you don’t have tax.

    And if someone if runs a prison for the same cost, but makes a huge profit, then you can guarantee that will be a magnet for other companuies to come in and do the same thing for a bit less.

  46. photonz1, you miss the evidence! The evidence shows that the private secotr does not run private prisons with any real greater efficiency or cost reduction. That is my point.

    Ricahrd Katenga, who was Eye to Eye a few weeks ago with me and Ron Mark and Shane Jones, also onfirmed that private prisons are not any better that state ones. So why should taxpayers contribute to the profits of the companies for little appreciable difference?

  47. Also the rant that private = efficient, public = wasteful is a useful fiction for those who don’t want to spend the time understanding the problem.

  48. I tend to agree on this one. It is really difficult to see how the private sector can profit from this activity at the same cost without a reduction of services.

    However I would also like to point out that there is Public Good at work here. A for profit organization’s complete effort is making a profit from incarceration, the onus and there for cost deriving the public good (rehabilitation, reduction in recidivism (say that fast)) is still a cost borne by the public purse.

  49. Metiria, You say that profits in private prisons can only come from the reductions of services, but you miss the most important point – the public sector is very very inefficient, and public servants often have terrible attitude to wastage (I know I used to work for a large govt dept).

    My sister-in-law is regularly berated by colleagues for not going to enough overseas conferences, not because they are of any use, but because her department might miss out on government travel funding for the next year if they don’t use it this year. There is a wasteful mindset that runs very deep in some government departments. They work for the government, so cost and efficiency becomes irrelevant.

    It’s interesteding that you say there will be reduced training for inmates, when the link you give tells of studies that show traing was increased in private prisons, as well as better conditions and improved management.

    Private prisons should be given a go. And what about paying them a big fat bonus if they can substantially reduce reoffending. That would be worth it.

    The Aussie study you link to sounded completely biased against private prisons from the title onwards. They claim that the main purpose of private prisons is to incentivise the public prisons to be more efficient, and they talk of this as though it is a bad thing.

    Private prisons would have to be an absolute disaster to be as bad as the public prison system in it’s current state.

  50. @big bro-
    What effect do you see this having on rehabilitation? If it is going to see a decrease then your points on safety and sorting out the problem are null and void.

  51. big bro Says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    > 1. They are cheaper
    > 2. They are safer for the staff (and sadly for the inmates)
    > 3. They save the tax payer a fortune

    do you have any evidence for any of those claims?

  52. 1. They are cheaper
    2. They are safer for the staff (and sadly for the inmates)
    3. They save the tax payer a fortune
    4. The scum that we send to stay in them are no longer our problem.

    There is nothing bad about private prisons Met, deal with it and move on.

  53. The difference between public and private prisons can be explained in an incomplete contracts framework as I try to argue here with reference to the paper by Hart, Shleifer and Vishny. The conclusion is, roughly, that there is a case to be made for private prisons, but it may not be as strong as for other services currently provided by the government, and it is at its weakest for the case of maximum security prisons.

  54. Thank you for continuing to question the claims of the Govt on this.
    Yes the “libs” will say that it can be done with increased efficiencies – but that really is another way of saving significant staff reductions and core services. And that can only lead to increased security risk for inmates.

  55. “f the cost to the public is essentially the same, where are the massive profits coming from? That can only be from a significant reduction in the provision of rehab services, health services, retraining, significant staff reductions and other core services”

    To be fair, it is also possible that efficiency gains can be made in delivering those services, without reducing their quality. It’s just not very likely. At all.

    But I felt I had to put it out there before the libs turned up and did it for me.

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