Why Privatisation can be bad

I learnt today that in the USA the privatised prison industry predicts the value of its stock, in part, based on the future school performance of African-American and Latin-American third graders. The industry also bases it’s predicted / future bed numbers on the number of African-American third-graders – apparently the ratio is that 4 out of 10 will need a prison bed in 10 years time.

I find this sad and obscene.

If you’re a profit-making venture or shareholder in this space then clearly it is to your benefit to expand the prison population. No prisoners = no business.

Whilst there is a commercial imperative and incentives to improve efficiencies etc. there is often a conflict between social objectives and financial objectives.

Whereas, in government run services and facilities you would think it is in their best interests to reduce the prison population because of the significant cost on so many levels to the tax-payer and to the broader community.

Having said that, a whole-of-government approach to anything is often rhetoric at best. Youth crime prevention and meaningfully addressing the issues related to juvenile justice, detention and care is often put in the too-hard basket and building another detention facility becomes the easy solution. Another prison and more police are quantifiable responses to a 3 or 4 year election cycle.

It’s much harder to win votes based on “warm, fuzzy” things such as community consultation and active youth participation.

Also, these processes invariably ask hard questions of government and don’t always paint them in a positive light – which results in gagging, suppression and wholesale editing… ask any consultant or peer research process that has had it’s work censored by a Minister’s office, or government agency.

Hmmm… a little cynical today. The flu isn’t helping that.

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