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America bails on private prisons

Written By: - Date published: 3:49 pm, August 19th, 2016 - 19 comments
Categories: accountability, Judith Collins, national, prisons, Privatisation, useless - Tags: , , , ,

America, champion of capitalism, hope of the brave etc, can still do math:

Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

The Justice Department’s inspector general last week released a critical report concluding that privately operated facilities incurred more safety and security incidents than those run by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The private facilities, for example, had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and had eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average, according to the report. …

So, similar to our experience in NZ then. If I was a betting man, however, I would bet that Labour are right:

Govt ‘too proud and arrogant’ to ditch private prisons – Labour

The US Justice Department has announced plans to phase out private prisons, but don’t expect the same to happen here in New Zealand anytime soon.

New Zealand private operator Serco’s poor handling of the Auckland Central Remand Prison in Mt Eden saw management of the prison handed back to Corrections late last year.

But Labour corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis said the US decision was “just proof of what we’ve been saying”.

“They’ve come to realise it doesn’t save money, it doesn’t help with rehabilitation, it doesn’t make these people better people when they come out of prison. They learnt their lesson. They’ve had the courage to reverse their decision around private prisons.”

But he doesn’t expect the Government to follow in the United States’ footsteps.

“They’re just so arrogant – this would be a major slap in the face for Judith Collins. She was the architect of the private prison experiment here in New Zealand… she’s just too proud and arrogant to accept she got it wrong.” …

Doing things against the evidence for ideological reasons is just the National way.

19 comments on “America bails on private prisons ”

  1. Siobhan 1

    Mike Williams, so called Labour stalwart and CEO of the NZ Howard League, will be very, very disappointed at your tone, he’s a big fan of Judith Collins and the National Party management of prisons.

    • mac1 1.1

      Siobhain, I don’t see what you see in this article by Mike Williams.


      Don’t let your dissatisfaction with Mike Williams as a former president of the NZLP and a Nat Radio commentator colour his work and understanding of prisoners and the Howard League.

      Don’t let your dissatisfaction with the National Party allow you not to see that there are parts of what they do which is actually OK.

      Two things. It is logically wrong to dismiss a man’s views because of other views he might hold, and secondly, in government, a Labour MP for example would frankly look stupid to condemn something as being wrong because National thought of it, and then in government have to uphold as good practice what might be happening in our prisons that is actually good.

      I do share your concerns about a lot of prison practice, especially in private prisons, and I also understand your concerns about Mike Williams and political commenting; but, when it comes to literacy in prisons, and other educational moves for example, he’s on the money.

      Backing prisoners and prison reform is not a place for glory seekers. It’s not popular, and unacceptable to many.

      Instead it’s one of the corporal works of mercy, and I honour Mike Williams for that.

        • mac1

          Thanks for the response, Siobhan. Read the two articles in the Herald you directed me to. They seem fair enough- claims made with factual evidence to substantiate. Collins just might have got something right! Or more probably, Corrections staff made a suggestion and she concurred.

          The Radio excerpt and commentary is actually quite alarming. Mike Williams never said, in the two quotes I heard, that there is no need for Te Reo in prisons. The headline is misleading. I listened twice and I heard him argue for cultural inclusion of things such as carving, argue against cultural bias but acknowledge that our most used language is English, and that he taught literacy in English.

          He never said there is no need. He didn’t say it should not be in prisons. Rather, he argued for literacy and fluency in English as being more important in terms of ordinary daily transactions and job qualifications.

          Kelvin Davis disagreed. His own personal case in point, as he quoted, did not in my view make a sufficient argument where it could be extrapolated to disprove the general case that Williams was putting.

          • mac1

            A for the gem you quote, in

            Siobhan, your quotes for Williams predate the 2015 revelations about poorly run private prisons. He wrote the following about Wiri, then.

            “We have the second-highest incarceration rate in the world behind the United States and have had a sky-high rate of reoffending,” he says.
            “It is time to bring some new thinking into the system and the new focus on having less people return to jail is welcome. It is an experiment that is worth a go.”

            After the revelations in June and July 2015, there seems to be no pronouncement from Williams that I can find in Google apart from the following. At a panel held in September 2015 after revelations about organised fights etc., participants including Mike Williams “accused Serco of cutting corners by deliberately understaffing the prison to make money.”

            Mike Williams in June 2015 spoke about the bright prospects of a new initiative being also brought to Wiri prison.”They learn to read to a reading age of about 10 years, which is enough to read the road code, so effectively they are functionally literate in English,” says Mike Williams. This programme began earlier in the Hawkes Bay prison and was already a successful programme that Wiri also decided to adopt.

            Williams supports fewer people in prisons. This is the opposite to what Serco and the American models seem to want, which is more people in prison with a guaranteed profit for private companies. Williams wants to address the problem of too many prisoners in NZ with programmes suited for keeping people out of prison in the first place, by education while within prison, and with support and jobs after sentence completion.

            He seems to want to push for programmes that will make a difference. This is not the same as supporting privatised prisons.

            • Adrian

              We all know that Serco will say anything, and look like they will do anything to keep the media and politicians off their backs, however their primary purpose, actually their purpose by law, is to make money for their shareholders, any sane, thinking person would have to see that is in direct conflict with rehabilitation, safe and, progressive prisons, I mean their appalling record speaks quite clearly for itself.

              So if you are proposing that Williams is only supporting the education programmes at Serco for profit prisons, (but in doing so, giving Serco desperately needed credibility}, but at same time wants fewer prisoners, then he either naive, which we know he is not, or has brought into the for profit model…. Williams in his own words…

              “I ATTENDED the opening of the new prison (Serco) in South Auckland yesterday and, while it may go against the grain to see the best part of a billion taxpayer dollars spent on locking people up, I came away thinking that the money might be worth it.”

              At the very least, a reserved endorsement for a Serco for profit prison from Mike Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Howard League, shameful.

              Also it is interesting that the one positive prison story he uses, higher education leading to lower rates of re-offending in Sweden, Norway etc, do not themselves have for profit prisons, they have well run state prisons, which he also fails to mention.

  2. McFlock 2

    It’s a sad day when our government is more brutally tory than the US.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    The home of radical capitalism realises that privatisation, and capitalism in general, fails.

    Now all we need is for the rest of us to realise it as well.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    These failed companies will be looking for corporate welfare. What an ideal opportunity for the National Party to solicit some bribes.

  5. mauī 5

    It would be interesting to know how a state prison in the US compares to a state prison here. I would guess prisoner treatment is worse and the ability to profit from prisoners is higher over there. Which more or less equates to a private prison here.

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      They have separate Federal, state and County/City jail systems. Often federal prisoners are held in county jails which the government pays for .
      Its a very complicated system which is a vast gulag in the numbers incarcerated.

  6. Macro 6

    “They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

    Well Surprise! Surprise! Knock me over with a feather… As if people haven’t been saying this for decades. Even the aussies are washing their hands of their state funded privately run torture chamber and gulag on Manus Island. Though what happens to the “residents” is anyones guess – Dutton isn’t saying.

  7. weston 7

    Every thing that ive seen about american prisons and their systems just makes me think they’re all a bunch of fucking munters beleive it or not they’ve still got huge plantations where the inmates are treated exactly like they treated their slaves with shotgun toting guards riding around on horseback herding chained jumpsuited inmates fuckme could you gat any more primative ?Even within flasher prisons the sight of prisoners shuffling along in leg chains is common i dunno if they are expected to shit in chains but it wouldnt supprize me .I.m.o. america could easily take the prize for the most stupid people all living togeather award .Perfectly understandable that judith feels the same way as the yanks .

  8. Philj 8

    I await the response from the NZ media about the use of private corporates to run our jails.lol The role of private enterprise and it’s ability to make a profit is ideologically driven and a clear example of how private corporate interests have overriden public policy within our Government. Bill English has said that we cannot afford the high rate of incarceration. So they contract CERCO. LOL This Government has contracted out a huge amount of its RESPONSIBILITY I. E. TPPA

  9. save nz 9

    Great post and a really good move by the US, hope for them yet!

  10. RedBaronCV 10

    Well if NZ has TPPA we won’t be able to deprivatise our prisons like the US have!

  11. Siobhan 11

    The important thing to remember is that this only affects about a quarter of inmates and detainees held in US private facilities . So the Private prison Industry still has a good future in the USA.

    (from the Guardian)

    “The move has been widely hailed by advocates as one that could signal positive change for about 22,000 federal inmates across 13 facilities, but many have also paused to note that the Justice Department decision only affects about a quarter of inmates and detainees held in US private facilities.

    “While the Justice Department’s announcement is a step in the right direction, much more action is needed to scrub private prisons from our criminal justice system,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, an online racial justice organization.

    The decision, for example, does not apply to people held in Department of Homeland Security detention centers for immigration violations, which tally at about 34,000 on any given day, and about 400,000 over the course of a year. About 60% of those detainees are held in private facilities. By comparison, private prisons currently hold about 15% of federal prisoners and 6% of those in state corrections.”

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