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Corrections boss not sure about private prisons

Written By: - Date published: 4:42 pm, August 13th, 2010 - 17 comments
Categories: Politics, prisons, privatisation - Tags:

We’ve already seen criticism of the move by National to introduce private prisons (eg. NZ Herald editorial). Now the soon-to-depart prison boss, Barry Matthews has indicated that he too has his doubts. According to the DomPost:

Yesterday, he said he was undecided about whether private companies could deliver a cheaper or better service. He also admitted he had initial concerns that a ban on smoking would lead to conflict in jails.

“I’m ambivalent about it. I know there’s a lot of claims that it’s cheaper, more efficient and innovative and we’ll need to see if that eventually comes to be….

The Government announced in May that the Mt Eden-Auckland Central Remand Prison would be run privately. The deadline for tenders is in two weeks and Mr Matthews will report back to Corrections Minister Judith Collins.

Is this a case of another experienced head deciding they don’t like the direction of the current National administration?

17 comments on “Corrections boss not sure about private prisons ”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    Is this a case of another experienced head deciding they don’t like the direction of the current National administration?

    If you’re going to use lines like this, at least research the head’s “experience” before holding him up a wise sage. Here’s a clue: start with a search on INCIS, then move on to his time as Commissioner of the WA Police.

    The main benefit of a properly managed private prison controlled by a suitable contract with appropriate performance indicators, monitored by an external inspectorate as operates successfully in WA and can do in NZ is that it won’t be run by Barry Matthews.

    • comedy 1.1

      Barry Matthews is someone who you can use the term retarded for and retards would justifiably take offence – truly a floater of the worst variety.

    • bbfloyd 1.2

      rex… just a small point..i was in WA at the time the mathews was appointed. it was actually tough time for the police in general over there, as there had been a huge amount of fallout from exposed police corruption. mathews was charged with instituting cultural/operational, and administrative reform. this was conducted against a backdrop of constant attacks from within the police force itself. partly as a result of resentment over an “outsider” being appointed over a local candidate. even worse, he’s a kiwi. there was also an element of arse covering going on, as not all the corruption had been weeded out.
      considering the obstacles he faced, he actually succeeded rather well. even the locals were prepared to concede that in the end.
      i can’t speak for the time he has been back here. the only stuff i have seen is the msm coverage he gets. which i have to ignore for the good of my health…

      • bbfloyd 1.2.1

        i’m sure it would operate in WA successfully. any society that has got used to locking its children up from the age of ten. (sometimes for years), would find it easy to make the transition. of course, having a mainly young prisoner inflow presents fewer security issues for the administration.
        i would guess that NZ provides a different set of problems

      • Rex Widerstrom 1.2.2

        I was around for the end of his term. It’s not just the Police Union (who in WA were on the verge of the first-ever strike under his leadership and institured work-to-rule action) but also his employers.

        I know Judith Collins is no great shakes as Minister but she refused to express her confidence in him last year; while his immediate previous boss Michelle Roberts (then WA Police Minister) didn’t get on with him either and it was widely know round the traps that she wanted him to resign but he refused.

        His tenure was summarised by the Kennedy royal commission into corruption as:

        poor management within the service had allowed corruption to continue unimpeded

        …so either his efforts to instiute cultural reform were either non-existent or ineffective.

        An example that comes to mind is the time WA taxpayers got saddled with a $A100,000 legal bill for two police officers judged by courts to have been corrupt. The court’s findings were simply rejected by Matthews, who recommended no internal disciplining.

        While Matthews is one of the worst administrators I’ve seen in action, Corrections Departments the world over tend to be very slow to respond to trends and new ideas in correctional management, and tend to focus on the wrong sorts of outcomes. Private prison operators, if set the right targets and managed appropriately, are more easily controlled to produce positive prisoner outcomes.

        • Draco T Bastard

          If it’s just a case of setting targets then surely even state run prisons can do the same if the same targets are set. If they’re slow to move then it’s probably a fault within the management and I’ve seen enough of that same type of mismanagement (essentially, we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way) in private corporations to know that shifting to private prisons isn’t a magic bullet that cures all ills and the example of Telecom and others in NZ show that such privatisation can certainly make matters much worse (world experience shows that that is the most likely case with prisons).

          • Rex Widerstrom

            You’re quite right Draco. However in my experience any Corrections Department in any jurisdiction in which I’ve worked would rather be wrong than admit to being wrong. Not the officers themselves – they know what works and what doesn’t in the real world of prisons (which is why they’re against smoking bans and such) but the prison management and departmental hierarchy.

            Whereas some (and it is admittedly a minority) of private prison operators actually embrace new and better ways of doing things. Therefore if you choose the right operator and the right targets you can create, literally overnight, a much better prison.

            If I were the Minister, I’d look at private operators, but put someone like you in charge of setting an monitoring their KPIs – a sceptic who’d need convincing anew every day that they were doing things better than the state-run equivalents 🙂

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      The biggest problem with INCIS was that IBM were contracted to develop it. ICMS (Telecoms software) was also a balls up when it first went online and it still wasn’t really very good when they changed to a new system (ICMS is now the print server I believe). Management of the system was also a balls up but doesn’t appear to have had Barry Matthews in the management team.

      There is the underlying reality though – NZ managers just suck in general.

      • bbfloyd 1.3.1

        you got that right

      • Rex Widerstrom 1.3.2

        I’ll see you your Wikipedia reference and raise you one 😀

        He was the project manager of the INCIS computer system when it was abandoned in 1999

        • Draco T Bastard

          Ah, interesting. Seems that Wikipedia needs some sort of automated cross referencing.

        • lprent

          I’d agree that wasn’t exactly a distinguished project. More muddled management from what I heard from people working in it. Far too many changes going on in cluttered meetings. Quite simply they never got to finish anything well because there was always something more urgent.

          I avoided the project when I was thinking about shifting

      • lprent 1.3.3

        Yep. The good ones are very good. But the average standard doesn’t seem that high to me – and I’m a dropout from management. To the chagrin of my management family I did a few years doing it, did an MBA and dropped it like a hot potato to go programming. A lot more fun. I just avoid getting ‘promoted’ to management and concentrate on building code that works

        • comedy

          “But the average standard doesn’t seem that high to me”

          In my line of work it is poor and getting worse, the most annoying are the ones that actually believe they’re brilliant and surround themselves with tards who give them affirmation.

  2. David Lloyd 2

    Who cares what Barry Matthews thinks? Corrections has been a disaster under his direction. This guy is hopeless and should have been sacked years ago. I am no fan of the present government, loath them in fact, but if private prisons can work more efficiently and perhaps save the taxpayer money I’m all for them.

    • David,

      do you not read information about private prisons. Even when we did them last time they were more expensive than the public ones. This was by about $7000 per prisoner per year. not to mention their record in regard to escapes. this sits at 2 escapes in 5 years under private management 0 under public.

      There is not a study in the world that is not commissioned by a private prison company that says they save money.

      There are however many that show they do not. As I said even here in NZ.

      The problem with this government is we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past as they have no new ideas and are stuck in an ideological world of privatisation is best.

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