OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Manufacturing Dissent

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  • ScottY,

    We should send the bill to Garth McVicar. If he wants to lock more people up he can damn well pay for it.

    Yorke of The Atatu • Since Feb 2009 • 787 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Wow, Keith. I know I nagged you to write a post, but really, this one is pretty good.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    Coming up is a new variation of the parole laws that National introduced in the early 90s when they allowed one third of a sentence to be served before you were eligible for parole.
    I reckon they will go for 25% this time.

    Trouble is how do they sell it to their hardline base.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 204 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Who was Justice Minister for the previous nine years of government? Wasn't the Parole Act 2002 passed by him? Some fellow or other, I can never remember who.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2917 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    Who was Justice Minister for the previous nine years of government? Wasn't the Parole Act 2002 passed by him? Some fellow or other, I can never remember who.

    That's a fair call, and both major parties have pandered to the "law and order" mob.

    But the current admin has put its foot on the gas.

    Yorke of The Atatu • Since Feb 2009 • 787 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I was talking to someone with an insight into the double-bunking issue, and it's not hard to see why prison management and workers hate and fear the idea.

    Principally, it introduces a whole new layer of risk-laden decisions. It's a given that some of those calls will be wrong. And if you make the wrong call on who to bunk with who and someone is injured, or dies, you can bet the MInister of Corrections won't be putting up her hand to take responsibility.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    We should send the bill to Garth McVicar. If he wants to lock more people up he can damn well pay for it.

    And fill the farm adjacent to his, with shipping containers.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2482 posts Report Reply

  • Jono,

    Surely the next most depressing thing apart from the spiralling numbers to be locked up, is the tiny, tiny amount for sommunity psych and probation services: $19million from $1.8billion over four years. WTF?
    I am already tired of hearing Collins talking point "We are not going to let dangerous criminals out on the streets" without anyone asking about although not-particularly dangerous criminals who pose little risk but currently great cost to the community.

    Whangarei • Since Oct 2008 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    And if you make the wrong call on who to bunk with who and someone is injured, or dies, you can bet the MInister of Corrections won't be putting up her hand to take responsibility.

    I was thinking exactly that. When it happens - and it will happen - it'll unfairly fall on Matthews' head.

    Unbelievable that double-bunking could be proposed so soon after the Liam Ashley tragedy.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Not just an NZ problem.

    Insider's PoV

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2326 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Collin's Press Release was, I assumed, tacitly in response to the corrections union court action.

    My impression is the idea behind that is: The union has agreed to double bunking in th past, but on negotiated terms (for example, more staff on duty - which they may currently find hard to come by); the idea that such things would be negotiated is in their contract. But in this case, there hasn't been the negotiation.

    Principally, it introduces a whole new layer of risk-laden decisions.

    Or, looked at statistically, just directly more dangerous for everyone, including the staff.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1094 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    Agree re billing McVicar. And the complicit media, particularly television, that lazily ask him (and usually only him) to comment on criminal justice matters, giving him both credibility and a totally false aura of neutrality.

    [rant] As for private prisons, they may help with the short-term capital outlay to get new prisons built, but they will absolutely make the long-term situation worse. The incentives they set up are obscene.

    The Geo group, which ran National's favourite hobby horse, the Auckland central remand prison, has a record in the US of actively lobbying for harsher sentencing policies in the jurisdictions in which they run prisons. They're generally paid per prisoner, so they're incentivised to have more prisoners in jail for longer. This also means that they have no incentive to actively work on rehabilitation. Some of the research I've read in fact seems to indicate that people imprisoned at private prisons have a statistically significant higher rate of recidivism.

    Prisoner health and welfare is generally worse, too, as are working conditions for staff - there's only so much you can save in prison construction and basic operating costs, so you save in things like quality of food, quality of medical care for prisoners, and staff wages. Also, there's usually a performance penalty for each prisoner that has to be sent to an external hospital, so they're incentivised to hide injuries as long as possible.

    A common answer to this is that all these things can be solved with a proper monitoring programme from the contracting agency - in this case, it'd be Corrections. Theoretically, this could be true. However:

    1) A genuinely proper monitoring system is very expensive to run. You could see many of the financial benefits you got in tendering out eaten up by compliance costs and monitoring.

    2) Private prison advocates argue that Corrections can't run a prison efficiently, yet they magically trust them to monitor properly? How does that work? [/rant]

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 270 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    I don't know how the rest of the country is fearing, but in Christchurch there are plenty of empty apartments with heaps of glass that we can keep an eye on the occupants.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1144 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Stevens,

    So many of our prisoners are actually people with real mental health issues, who gain nothing by being locked up for a term, released, re-offending due to mental-health issues, inability to cope with the outside world etc then locked up again etc.

    My chief issues with private prisons is one of principle. Allowing a profit-driven private company to incarcerate citizens is anathema to me. The ability to hold a citizen in prison is a duty of the state and of no one else.

    Collins is an opportunist, out to try and manage the PR around double-bunking, with no real interest in the dangers of it. She exeplifies the growing discourse we here for vengence and retribution rather than the much more expensive option of serious rehab work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 229 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Lyth,

    Jackie, good on you for nagging, and Keith good on you for doing the work.

    But who is going to do anything on this? It's great getting all these comments in a liberal-luvvie-fest, but are you going to hope a MSM journo picks it up and does some hard work? Cosgrove did a release last month on double-bunking. Can you go further with this?

    In short, who is going to bell the cat?


    P.
    who must have got out of the wrong side of the bed

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    [rant] As for private prisons, they may help with the short-term capital outlay to get new prisons built, but they will absolutely make the long-term situation worse. The incentives they set up are obscene.

    ...

    The Geo group ... has a record in the US of actively lobbying for harsher sentencing policies in the jurisdictions in which they run prisons. They're generally paid per prisoner, so they're incentivised to have more prisoners in jail for longer. This also means that they have no incentive to actively work on rehabilitation. ...

    They won't, but you could incentivise it differently. There are supposedly fewer escapes from privately-run prisons because there's a "fine" every time a prisoner escapes. Insert a clause fining a private prison every time an inmate reoffends and maybe the profit motive could actually be helpful :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • dcnbwz,

    privatisation is about making a profit. There is already some horrendous examples (california for one) where prisons are full of people who should not even be there.

    Fundamentally - this is not an industry. This is not a business.

    Yet we're sleepwalking towards it all over again.

    Private run prisons NEED inmates. No second guessing where the laws come from.

    Please let's not be so naive here. Or maybe I am.

    uk • Since Sep 2009 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    Graeme - see my point re monitoring. If Corrections isn't trusted to run prisons efficiently, how can it be trusted to monitor efficiently?

    Also see the principled objections rasied by other posters - I didn't raise them because they're ideological more than practical. I happen to agree the state has an obligation to conduct its own punishments, but that's not a conclusive reason. The practical consequences of prison privatisation are.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 270 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Surely the next most depressing thing apart from the spiralling numbers to be locked up, is the tiny, tiny amount for sommunity psych and probation services: $19million from $1.8billion over four years. WTF?

    That's capital costs, so expansion of those offices to accommodate more staff etc.

    As for private prisons, they may help with the short-term capital outlay to get new prisons built, but they will absolutely make the long-term situation worse.

    I think, though I haven't checked, what's more likely in New Zealand is that the government builds the prison, and then contracts out the management of it to a private company. So no change to the capital outlay.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6148 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I've been trying desperately to find the reference, and can't, but I read not terribly long ago that New Mexico (I think) is looking at spending more on sending in the state police to put down riots at privatised prisons (possibly just one) than the projected savings from the privatisation.
    In the event that this ideological desire - and Keith, I really don't think it's about the money because the state will be paying for the capital works no matter who's doing the building - bears fruit, the contracts need to have absolute indemnity clauses that require the operator to bear every last cent in costs associated with restoring order in the event of a riot. Every minute of police time, every tear gas grenade, every last stitch and wound dressing for injured police officers (ACC be damned, riots in privately-run prisons shouldn't cost the taxpayer a cent). Won't happen, of course, because that would be against the philosophy of "privatise profits, socialise losses", but it should.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3889 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Oh, and as for double-bunking, it's not just prisoner safety that's an issue. It's a big one, to be sure, but understandably the corrections officers are more concerned about their own safety. Putting two people into a small room that, by necessity, has a single, restricted access point, is begging for even greater numbers of assaults on guards. The only question is whether it's a guard or a prisoner that dies first.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3889 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Private run prisons NEED inmates.

    They only need well behaved inmates.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2482 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    well behaved inmates

    White collar crims like finance company bosses, you mean?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16277 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    chomsky likes you.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    If Corrections isn't trusted to run prisons efficiently, how can it be trusted to monitor efficiently?

    So choose performance indicators that they have less chance of fudging - like escapes where the police will reluctantly be doing some of the data collection.

    I personally doubt that it's worth the extra effort or cost, but that Auckland remand operation sounded like it worked quite well. I'm not saying that discounts all the overseas evidence, the perverse incentives or the moral issues about privatising a very coercive state function. And thank you Keith for gathering the data to guide the discussion.

    I find it interesting that privatising prisons is supported by some of the same folk who bleat about taxation being coercive 'theft'.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16277 posts Report Reply

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