Generation near load

Good practice is to build new power generation near load. And prison town syndrome is pretty well-known. So what South Auckland really needs is New Zealand’s first public-private-partnership prison, right?


13 thoughts on “Generation near load

  1. Been tried, failed (massively overrepresented in prisoner abuse, suicide, and illness rates), and discarded in Ontario. Obviously has also been tried and failed elsewhere, but the Ontario situation is one I’ve actually had occasion to research. And the company responsible was, I believe, GeoCorp, which is one of the frontrunners for any private prisons work here. Geocorp also has a record of trying to influence the development of criminal justice policy to send more people to jail, for longer, in the jurisdictions in which it operates. We really don’t want that sort of crap in NZ.

    Funnily enough, they have their own prison town of a sort – Kingston. Lovely city of 100k right on Lake Ontario, beautiful campus of Queens university, the Royal Military College…. and 3 or 4 prisons. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the town (that aren’t students) is employed by either the federal or provincial government.

  2. I would have thought that one should find out why it is not working and make adjustments accordingly, not damm the whole idea. The one here in NZ which Labour closed for ideological reasons seemed to be working well.

  3. JC, what if it’s the idea — not the implementation — which is most problematic?

    I think the matter of outsourcing discipline and punishment ought to be the subject of public debate. As for other core state functions (defence, education, welfare, public good provision, etc.) I trust that debate will get underway presently.

    Not to say that I think private prisons are a good thing in practice. The incentives are all wrong.


  4. jcuknz – you basically can’t, simply due to the nature of prison services. In order to ensure rehabilitation/safety/prisoner health goals are being met, you’d need ridiculously prescriptive KPIs (and I suspect its impossible to develop a KPI to measure rehabilitation). This would (a) stifle most of the innovation a new operator might bring and (b) have huge monitoring costs. These inefficiencies would likely eat up most of (assuming it would have otherwise been more efficient) any costs savings. Plus, if Corrections is thought incompetent to run prisons, why would they be competent to monitor prison contracts?

    And that isn’t even getting in to the principled arguments.

  5. Eddie – your argument equally applies to the state provision of prisons as well, so having cancelled out that prisons are about rehabilitation then we are simply left debating the merits of private construction of building prisons and private management for watching prisoners.

    Now the private sector already provides this for health services, which I would argue have a much higher social value and significant daily risks. Actually the riskiest social activity is near completley privately provided, that is electrical wiring – get it wrong and significant catastrophic risks to the public.

    So prison services aren’t about rehabilitation andthe private sector already provides management services and other goods for the public under conditions of far greater public risk.

    Therefore what seems to remain in this debate is the ideological framing.

  6. WWHS, not really — because the stated purpose of private prisons is cost savings; that is, they’ll only be implemented if they’re more cost-effective. Eddie’s arguing that the need for monitoring and assessment negates that advantage at equivalent service standards.

    Prison services at present aren’t about rehabilitation, and a move to privatisation will prevent it from ever being so, due to the perverse incentive which means that if private prisons perform an effective rehabilitative function they’ll do themselves out of work. And others, as well, but that’s enough to start with. If we as a society want prisons to focus more on rehabilitation, then they’re not the way forward. I think that’s the thing which needs to be debated (but I don’t think it will be).


  7. If a released prisoner does reoffend again (within x no. of years), they are judged not to have been rehabilitated. If conversely they don’t reoffend, does that mean they have been rehabilitated? Would seem to provide an easy measure of rehab for private contractors (e.g. if person x reoffends within 3 years of leaving, that’s a fail), if so.

  8. Actually what Eddie and yourself want to debate is the social outcomes (within the contect of public or private provision of prisons).

    Were i’m in agreement with you both is that ideally that we should first have a debate about what prisons (the entire correction system, not just the physical building) should be about, that would then enable us to make a series of informed decisions on what services and assets need to be provided.

    This is similar to the health debate – were the current model is asset based, in that we have DHB’s whose role is largely to build and maintain hospitals rather than DHB’s that consider what are the health needs/objectives of the community and then what needs to be done to provide for that. In Health this is being recognised a little via PHO’s and other initiatives, but at a fundamental level debate is still heavily focussed on communities having a large asset built (the hospital).

    Prisons (and the corrections system as a whole) currently has the same characteristics as the Health system being an asset based system rather than a service to address community outcomes/objectives around sanctions/rehabilitation/safety.

    In the absence of this debate and a public view about what they want regarding sanctions/rehab/safety, the default is that the prison/corrections system is simply about asset management and the provision of management services. In this limited framework a prison is nearly no different to a hotel.

    In the absence of any wider debate then this governments stated objective of cost effectiveness is legitimate and therefore the option of private prisons is valid all other things being equal.

    Until we have a different societal conversation it is no use wishing for the moon, we have to deal with the situation as it is and counterfactuals that address the current situation NOT hypothetical alternatives that are reliant on a significant change in wider social decision making (that is labour, national and almost all parties compete to be tough on justice, that needs to change before alternatives can be considered valid policy options).

  9. WWHS – did you miss the bit where I said I wouldn’t even go into the principled arguments? I think you’re looking at things backwards. The reason given most often for privatising public services, regardless of their nature, is that the private sector is more efficient. I’m arguing that in the case of prisons, it isn’t.

    The international data on cost shows that in general, privately-run prisons are slightly cheaper, but the reported costs don’t include contract monitoring costs, which from the limited stuff I’ve seem appear to be signficiant. In all other KPIs – prisoner injury, prisoner mental health, staff job satisfaction – private prisons rank lower. You can’t treat the incarceration of prisoners the same as the production of widgets, its simply not the same – with the former, the overriding KPI is cost, with the latter, cost is one of, but not the only, KPI. In contract management terms quality assurance is a hell of a lot harder.

    As for the principled arguments (which actually have a bearing on longrun costs associated with corrections), if you want to have a fight about the publicly available evidence on:
    – higher reoffending rates in private prisons
    – multi-million dollar lobbying by prison managers to increase the length and breadth of custodial sentences in order to guarantee themselves ongoing business
    – the problem of public access to information held by private prison managers
    – the problems with state abdicating the responsibility that is the corollary of its monopoly on lawful force;

    Well I’m more than happy to have that fight. Look, I’m not an anti-privatisation zealot; the private sector does a lot of things a hell of a lot better that the public. But neither the economic nor principled case has been made for private prisons. Collins hasn’t even TRIED to make it. She’s simply asserted a couple of anecdotes and regurgitated some ideology.

  10. Stephen R – but that’s not fair on the prison managers. Its the same flaw with trying to directly equate teacher performance with test results. Obviously, given the same group of students, the better teacher should produce better results, but teachers won’t be given the same group of students.

    Similarly (and Graeme Edgeler has suggested the same measure as you), one prison might happen to be given worse prisoners than another. If you have a genuine kleptomaniac imprisoned for 6 months for theft, why should you be responsible for not reforming them? Again, people aren’t widgets. You’re essentially advocating a prisoner warranty: if the laptop breaks down within 2 years, we’ll fix it free; if the prisoner reoffends, we’ll imprison the next one for free.

    The two situations are not the same, and also run the risk of creating improper incentives. If you don’t allow private prisons to pick and choose who they incarcerate, the issues is essentially a lottery, and tying penalties to events over which the contractor has no real control don’t create incentives for compliance. If you allow them to pick and choose, they get all the biddable, minor prisoners, get great performance reviews, and justify their own existence. While the difficult prisoners go to the state-run prisons for them to deal with, and reinforce negative opinions of said institutions.

  11. That seems a good parallel Eddie, will have to watch out for that one in future. Will ponder further.

    Did you/anyone engage with Edgeler on what he said along the lines of what you just pointed out?

  12. No – I don’t like arguing with Edge. His grasp of minute details is always better than everyone else’s, but someone one seems to end up fighting about said minute details when they don’t really matter, and the issues actually being discussed fall to one side.

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