Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Top of the Populism

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  • Eddie Clark,

    Stephen:

    See! The devil is in the details. And the more detailed the contract / incentives are, the more expensive compliance and monitoring is Monitoring costs are never properly accounted for in outsourcing, and they can seriously cut into expected savings. Which either means very few savings, or improperly monitored prisons.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 273 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen,

    NotPC is actually <i>against</i> privatising prisons, perhaps summed up best by:

    “In anarchy (and indeed, any private market) the good or service is being supplied in response to the demands of private individuals,” whereas when the demand comes wholly from monopsonistic bureaucratic management financed out of the taxpayers’ pocket, the services provided are quite different.

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=11906042&postID=3516299869632975384

    Auckland • Since Apr 2008 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen,

    Eddie, yes I agree! More from NotPC, which seems to be your point:

    But if government is inefficient at managing prisons themselves –- and no one knows this better than Barry Matthews himself -– then why should we expect it to be any more efficient at producing the contracts to run private prisons?

    Auckland • Since Apr 2008 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And the railways, which they're going to run into the ground and ruin to save the private sector the bother.

    *sigh* Perhaps you could enlighten us all on which schools and hospitals you'd like to see "run into the ground" instead (why should you get all the drama queeny fun?), to actually pay for some of the delightfully fanciful wish lists that were doing the rounds?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    *sigh* Perhaps you could enlighten us all on which schools and hospitals you'd like to see "run into the ground" instead

    Why do you think its "instead", rather than "as well as"?

    I remember the 90's, even if you don't.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    See! The devil is in the details. And the more detailed the contract / incentives are, the more expensive compliance and monitoring is Monitoring costs are never properly accounted for in outsourcing, and they can seriously cut into expected savings. Which either means very few savings, or improperly monitored prisons.

    Case in point: googling around yesterday for the dirt on Wackenhut - now known as the Geo Group, the government's preferred bidder (that's funny, I thought contracts were supposed to be publicly tendered, not worked out in the Minister's office) - I learned of the case of one Wackenhut facility where the company made its savings by packing prisoners in two to a cell while providing only half the number of guards. naturally, there were riots - so many, in fact, that the state government had to establish a special ready response squad just to clean up their mess. Which more than ate up the cost "savings" of privatisation...

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    How curious. That's the second time in as many days I've seen the name Wackenhut. The previous one being an account of yet another disgraced moneyman, who lived in the 18,000-square-foot, 57-room Wackenhut Castle, which boasted a "moat, tower, pub and a man-made cliff" -- until he demolished it to make way for an even more grandiose establishment.

    Funny how castles and prisons look rather similar.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Why do you think its "instead", rather than "as well as"?

    I remember the 90's, even if you don't.

    Because, I/S, one of the nice things about living with someone who has spent pretty much his entire working life (45 odd years) in the railways, is that I come into contact with a pretty wide range of people who don't indulge in magical thinking.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Elsewhere, New Zealander Jamil Anderlini has published a fascinating set of video reports from the Financial Times' Beijing Bureau. The theme is "China's silenced citizens" and their use of the country's 3000 year-old petitioning system in search of relief.

    hmm..Jamil Anderlini, he wouldn't be reporting about social unrest again would he? ah yes, that smarmy grin, as he informs the foreign viewer that he has been refused access to film inside a government building...news.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    hmm..Jamil Anderlini, he wouldn't be reporting about social unrest again would he? ah yes, that smarmy grin, as he informs the foreign viewer that he has been refused access to film inside a government building...news.

    I'm curious. Do you have an issue with Jamil's grin, the style of the reports, current coverage of social unrest in China in general, or something else?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    What I meant to say was, he often makes a tremendously convincing case for upheaval and replacement of the totalitarian system for the imperialist's ear.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    and there's nothing remotely grinworthy in the issues he reports. Mainly that, he's prone to absolutes 'the last whatever of hope',and various mistranslations; for example earlier in the article a man saying 'we old beijingers', mistranslated as 'the common people', paints an emotive picture.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    ...totally neglecting to mention, that true last ancient recourse for disempowered; guanxi=personal relationships

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    Funny how castles and prisons look rather similar.

    Yes. Mt Eden does, from te outside that is. Inside is not so nice.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Re the school violence thing. There has been a lot of work going on here in the last few years. The key of course is to get to the kids with behaviour issues (conduct disorder is one label) when they are still pre-schoolers or before 7 at least. But it has to be a multi-systemic approach inclusive of families, school/pre-school etc (and collaboratively across govt depts - MSD, Education etc) . One exceptionally good programme is called Incredible Years, aimed at improving relationships between little kids and their parents. But there are large waiting lists for it around NZ.

    Once kids get older it is much harder to deal with behaviour and those early teenage years (around 13-14) particularly hard. But there are many groups with successful programmes and track records.

    BUT... These approaches are all intensive and expensive. And are at great risk of losing funding in the current cost cutting environment.

    And the cynic in me would say that if we want to produce more 'clients' and therefore profits for our future privately run prisons, cutting money for behaviour intervention programmes now is just the way to do it.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    So, you'd say overly grim, perhaps unjustified? Or is he presenting real issues too sensationally?

    Guangxi may be an ancient last recourse, but it's a pretty miserable situation if you're reduced to leaning on your "uncle" in the local government office for favours. (Whether he's a real relative, or a contact whose friendship is maintained through strategic purchasing of restaurant dinners, gifts for kids, etc...)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    An interesting point that Clayton Cosgrove just mentioned with respect to privatizing the prisons, was that once it is done, there is no one accountable as there is now, and the Minister would not be able to scrutinize a private business.I mean how many CEO's do you see with rolling heads?All I see is a few golden handshakes and the next up for the job.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    it's a pretty miserable situation if you're reduced to leaning on your "uncle" in the local government office for favours

    For you and me, perhaps, but we're mired in democratic tradition. China doesn't pretend to be a democracy and never has. They've been working this way for many hundreds of years

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    On a semi-related note, does the specter of private prisons mildly worry anyone else? I'm filing them in my "what could possibly go wrong" basket.

    Nothing, so long as you keep paying judges to put kids inside and keep the cells full. Perfectly sensible business model.

    Why do you ask?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    An interesting point that Clayton Cosgrove just mentioned with respect to privatizing the prisons, was that once it is done, there is no one accountable as there is now, and the Minister would not be able to scrutinize a private business.I mean how many CEO's do you see with rolling heads?All I see is a few golden handshakes and the next up for the job.

    Not just CEOs. Here's another Wackenhut example, from the same article I was talking about earlier:

    Right after the prison opened, a pack of guards repeatedly kicked a shackled inmate in the head. You might conclude these guards needed closer supervision, but that they had. The Deputy Warden stood by, arms folded. The company fired those guards and removed the warden -- to another Wackenhut prison.

    No accountability, even for serious assault.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Blake Monkley,

    Economic activity has held up however this won't last - contracts and prices for coal and iron ore are softening

    In Australia, now that commodity prices have collapsed and the country is increasingly exposed to the world economic crisis, the China-boom enthusiasm appears to have been replaced with a concern in some circles at Chinese interest in buying into Australian resource companies.
    The fact is is that modern Australian economy has been funded on foreign investment. It's going to be interesting to see how Rudd handles foreign investment applications by the Chinese.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Wackenhut

    I was afraid there was a blackly terrible pun hiding in there, and I wasn't wrong.

    Mark: yes, I'm aware of the long standing of guangxi , and of its importance in day-to-day life in China. I think referring to it as an alternate means of redress in a non-democratic system (alongside the ancient palace memorial) is probably stretching things a bit far, since guangxi fairly obviously depends on the connections you've got and can afford to maintain.

    Not much of a show for the powerless there. Again, we're hardly innocent in terms of a voice for the disempowered here either, but surely few people would regard having a mate in high places as an acceptable substitute for government accountability.

    And I'm not about forcing democratic ideas as understood here on China - I know enough about the country not to be that naive. Before we do that we could use to pay more attention to the malfunctions of the system we're promoting. For instance (and stop me if I've linked this before), whilst foreign reporters sigh when the Chinese refuse to give information, elsewhere in the rest of the democratic world reporters increasingly aren't even asking for the facts they're entitled to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    Please excuse my ignorance, but how does a privately run prison work?
    Does the government put the prisoners up for tender ("We've got a 10-year prisoner here. Who wants 'em?")
    Does the government decide that it costs, for example, $50k per year for a prisoner and then give that to the prison to house said offender, with it then becoming up to the prison how it chooses to use that money?
    Does the prison itself get to choose who it takes and who it doesn't? (in which case would any private prison have taken on Graeme Burton? Or Antoine Dixon?)
    And, lastly, does the private prison have any obligation to rehabilitate, or is it just there to house and punish?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Please excuse my ignorance, but how does a privately run prison work?
    ...
    Does the government decide that it costs, for example, $50k per year for a prisoner and then give that to the prison to house said offender, with it then becoming up to the prison how it chooses to use that money?

    Yes, that's pretty much it, except that it's the prison operator that decides what it will cost them to incarcerate a prisoner at a given level of security. The State continues sentencing as per normal, and ships prisoners about as under the status quo. The only real difference from the outside is that some prisoners will end up in prisons that are run on a for-profit basis at a cost-per-prisoner that's set by tender of the prison operator. I think there's also a base annual fee, to account for the fact that a prison is not a light bulb and doesn't cost nothing while it's sitting there un-utilised.

    The prisons don't get a choice as to who's sent there, and in any case the likes of Dixon and Burton are high-security prisoners and it's (hopefully) not going to eventuate that Paremoremo is put under private management. The thought of a bunch of Geo Corp prisoners, graded as suitable for the infamous 'D Block', rioting on a regular basis is really not appealing. Certainly one hopes that the contracts will include a cost-recovery clause to fully indemnify the Police for all costs associated with quelling unrest. If history in the US is anything to go by, riots at a privately-operated prison will be common and highly destructive.

    On the rehabilitation thing, that would depend entirely on the terms of the contract. If there is an obligation, monitoring could be a real bitch, as alluded to in other posts.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    The problem with private prisons is the same as with the health reforms of the '90s. Social justice is put into direct conflict with private interests. the purchaser/provider split in health meant that patients became a commodity. Hospitals and other health care providers had to focus on output -- good practice became confused with productivity in a commercial sense. There was an incentive to produce sickness, if you will. Increasing sickness, in a perverse way, became seen a sign of the system's health .

    Yet, in terms of social policy and epidemiology, one would want to decrease the amount of sickness in a society. The privatization model therefore works against both basic epidemiological principles and social justice.

    It's the same with prisons. Any criminologist will tell you that the more people you have in a population that spend time in prison, the more dysfunctional that population is going to be. Prisons poison communities. They corrupt policing. The more of them there are, the worse things are going to get. I mean seriously, do we really want to end up like the US or South Africa? Because that's where we might be heading.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

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