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Left to the market

Written By: - Date published: 2:10 pm, February 12th, 2009 - 34 comments
Categories: corruption, crime, prisons, privatisation - Tags:

Two Pennsylvania Judges have been accused of taking bribes from private prison operators to ensure a reliable stream of prisoners.

To quote Associated Press:

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

Children incarcerated included 15 year old Hillary Transue who received a three month sentence for setting up a myspace page lampooning her school principal.

This is just the latest in a series of horror stories from the American private prison system which have included use of slave labour, serial rape and abuse by staff and prison companies involved in running torture facilities in iraq.

And yet the government still wants to bring US prison companies into our country. WTF?

34 comments on “Left to the market ”

  1. infused 1

    Yeah, we give them playstations and under floor heating instead. Go figure.

  2. IrishBill 2

    You can do better than that reactionary drivel can’t you, infused? Have you ever visited a prison? Had friends or family inside? Done time yourself? You’ve got no idea. Idiot.

  3. @ work 3

    Infused, You sound a bit like the sensible sentacing trust. “Under floor heating” as you put it, is the cheapest way to heat a large block of concrete to a temprature that stops its inhabitants getting sick (costing them even more money). Now I know you love that warm fuzzy revenge feeling you get, but it is at an extra cost too the tax payer.

    So infused, how many extra tax payers dollars is a good PR headline and a warm fuzzy revenge feeling worth to you?

    (Moderately better than the normal questions over the SST’s policies which are worded “How much extra crime is acceptable in order for your warm fuzzy revenge feeling”)

  4. Rex Widerstrom 4


    Typical lefty bleeding heart liberalism. You know very well that the cheapest form of heating would be to confine, say, 20 or 30 of them to a cell meant for 2. Mmmm toasty body heat. And there’s the added benefit that food bills would be reduced by making creative use of those who died of dysentry or were trampled underfoot.


    Nothing you cite in your post is defensible in any way. But there are good operators of private prisons just as there are bad ones. Given the many, well-publicised, failings of the Wackenhutts of the industry it’s surprisingly easy to pick which ones not to give the contract to, no matter how low the price.

    But this is a political failure, driven by politicians pandering to voters like infused, rather than a failure of a private model per se. If ground glass kept ending up in Bellamy’s pies, the pollies would quickly change providers. But since an ever-growing (thanks to Mr McVicar) section of the population are happy to dehumanise prisoners, there’s absolutely no motivation to hold private providers to account.

    But nor are public prisons held accountable. Recently the Queensland Corrections Minister was boasting about how her state had the “best” prisons.

    What was the measure? Prisoner rehabilitation, which meant the community was safer when people were released? No… theirs were the cheapest per prisoner per day while remaining within international minimum guidelines.

    With that kind of attitude awarding and administering the contracts, who can blame the operators for taking the hint?

  5. sweeetdisorder 5


    “Have you ever visited a prison? Had friends or family inside? Done time yourself? You’ve got no idea. Idiot.”

    Well, maybe its because my friends and family don’t break the law. Idiot.

  6. IrishBill 6

    Not even the EFA?

  7. BLiP 7

    Rex said:

    ” . . . Typical lefty bleeding heart liberalism. You know very well that the cheapest form of heating would be to confine, say, 20 or 30 of them to a cell meant for 2 . . . ”


    Unfortuantely its not true. Over crowding results in increased levels of violence which results in creater health costs as injuries are treated and greater administration costs as incidents are investigated.

    Far cheaper to have underfloor heating to keep the population docile, along with tv’s and playstations to keep them occupied. The gizmo’s can also be used as incentives to good behaviour by classifying them as “priviledges”.

    Anyone who complains about heating and amusements being available in prisons simply don’t know what they are talking about.

  8. Not only was underfloor heating the cheapest option but it would also stop prisoners from using the metal grills or parts of them as weapons. Basically (to put this in a way a right winger could understand): Prisoners impaled by heater grills == “Your” tax payer dollars to treat.

  9. djp 9

    because govt officials are never corrupt.. oh wait, this whole scam would never have worked without corrupt govt officials

  10. QoT 10

    Jeez, IB, it isn’t breaking the law if usually only rich white people can do it!

    Anyone catch the *shudder* Sideswipe column in the Herald this week, congratulating somebody’s “community service” in putting up a sign on a road indicating where the next speed camera was? Cue jokey, “We sure smiled for that camera when we drove past, tee hee hee” comments. BREAKING THE SPEEDING LIMIT IS A CRIME, YOU WANKERS. IF WE’RE GOING TO TALK ZERO TOLERANCE, IF WE’RE GOING TO IMPRISON TEENS FOR TRYING POT OR DOING WHEELIES, WE’D BETTER BLOODY WELL IMPRISON YOU TOO.

    Please pardon the capslock abuse, I’m coming to the end of an epically painful Honours essay.

  11. vto 11

    underfloor heating. sheesh. just build the bloody things in the winterless north! dimwits.

  12. Felix 12

    QoT I couldn’t agree more. Can we please add the following to the list of zero tolerance crimes:

    “Parking In A Disabled Space Just For A Minute Cos No-one’s Using It Right Now” and
    “Parking Wherever The Fuck I Like Because I’m Towing A Boat”.

    PS don’t worry about the capslock, there’s a time and a place etc.

  13. @ work 13


    “Have you ever visited a prison? Had friends or family inside? Done time yourself? You’ve got no idea. Idiot.’

    Well, maybe its because my friends and family don’t break the law. Idiot.”

    Sorry, your disqualified from this debate, Just like if you haven’t had children your disqalified from the s59 debate.

    But on a more serious note, it does puzzle me why various people whom the law is enough to prevent them from commiting crime, run around moralising from the top of thier voice, thinking they know exactly the mindset of person who does commit serious crime. (I am of course excluding the posturing\talking up of what a kiwiblogger thinks a criminal thinks)

  14. BLiP 14


    ” . . . because govt officials are never corrupt.. oh wait, this whole scam would never have worked without private enterprise involved in the provision of social services . . . ”

    Ahhh – that’s more like it.

  15. Graeme 15

    Breaking the speeding limit is not a crime.

  16. burt 16

    So in the US the Judges make money sending people to private prisons… In NZ we change the law to let people out early and extend the use of home detention to keep state run prison numbers down.

    I’m just not sure which is a better outcome – locking up criminals but sending them to selected prisons for back handers or not locking them up so the govt can pretend we don’t have a statistically embarrassing prison population.

  17. Rex Widerstrom 17


    I’m not sure if you’re being serious. You do realise prisoners have families, who’ve broken no law, right? And rightly or wrongly the person who’s inside is still loved by them. Plus the fact that family support during incarceration and upon release is an important predictor of the likely rehabilitation of the offender (and thus the ongoing safety of the community)?


    I never realised exercising the cut and paste functions from Google search results could be so taxing 😉

    Good on anyone who sabotages the roadside cash register programme and gets the Police back on the roads looking for SUV drivers with no spatial awareness who change lanes in front of me without indicating, I say!!

    Uh oh, captcha is now clearly a subsidiary of Roger Douglas Inc: “two-year-olds, mines”.

  18. vto 18

    rex, no, just pulling tits

  19. infused 19

    lol. I do work at Rimutaka prison all the time. I have two buddies that helped build the new wing. One was a builder, the other a sparky. I also have a friend who is a prison officer.

    Don’t call me an idiot, you idiot. I have a better knowledge of you what goes on inside there than you do.

    IrishBill: I doubt that very much.

  20. TightyRighty 20

    I’ve been in a prison visiting relatives, and mates. almost went there myself too. beat that charge though. prison is punishment for reasonably serious crimes committed. if you don’t like the conditions don’t do crime, or get a half-decent lawyer.

    And also IB isn’t it a bit rich to compare Nationals proposed policy of privatising prisons and corruption in america, when we can look at the EFA and the EPMU’s involvement in it. especially as it’s terrible to have the bretheren and big business involved for shadowy aims, but somehow the unions involvments were completely honest and above board.

    AND what about the Owen Glenn saga. i mean, it’s a much better example of corruption in NZ than a couple of private prisons in shit-kickersville USA

    captcha: ideals talk hmmm where to start with that one

    IrishBill: I don’t want to reopen that stupid EFA debate but there is no equivalence between the brethren and the unions. The brethren hid their identity and their support and tried to affect the democratic process without allowing us to know it was them doing it or how much was being spent. The unions are openly affiliated, declare all of their political donations and, as incorporated societies, have books that are open to any of their members. The EFA was never about stopping third parties spending on election campaigns but about making sure the voter was able to find out exactly who was doing so and how much they spent. Like they were in relation to the unions and the Labour party.

    I am sick of the right’s double speak on funding corruption. I have a strong feeling it will come back to bite them. Particularly Act as I doubt we will ever find out who was donating to the waitamata trust.

  21. Matthew Pilott 21

    Don’t call me an idiot, you idiot. I have a better knowledge of you what goes on inside there than you do.

    Perhaps if you didn’t to the most obvious thing possible to earn that particular term of endearment.

    Going on about how much you know about prisons makes you look even more stupid for the ‘playstation and underfloor heating’ righty drivel – at least the talkback munters have an excuse, but you’ve just eloquently denied the only avenue available to you – ignorance.

    Now we know you talk rubbish, even when you profess to know better.


    locking up criminals but sending them to selected prisons for back handers …

    Burt, suggest you read the article. Your equivalence looks a tad mean-spirited, to say the least. Also makes you look like a raving left = bad kinda guy.

  22. burt 22

    Matthew Pilott

    Well said – we all know that Microsoft paid big back handers to get X-Box’s installed rather than playstations 🙂

  23. burt 23

    Matthew Pilott

    Nothing mean agbout that, although I do acknowledge that according to the article people are being locked up for the slightest of reasons. Reasons that don’t seem to make any sense at all and don’t justify incarceration.

    What we are talking about here (as far as corruption goes) is a few twisted individuals who by the sounds of it are about to find out first hand what they have been inflicting on people themselves.

    In NZ the situation is a little different, we simply don’t lock them up because we don’t have the prison capacity. EG: Why was Burton released ?

    I still don’t know which is a better outcome for society as a whole.

  24. northpaw 24

    So once again we see why folks state-hop for a semblance of justice in the courts..

    On prisons, it was a while agao now (circa 1999..?) a report came out of Texas about their pride in private prisons GROWTH. At the time my mind was more focussed on that state’s incredibly popular Governor through the 80s/90s.. name not needed here – you know it so well!! – But several news outlets had coined the privatisation = gulag model.

    Amusing for its aptness more than anything else. Which is not to dismiss the plight of many incarcerated-for-profit victims..

  25. Rex Widerstrom 25


    Phew, just checking 😀

    TightyRighty suggests:

    if you don’t like the conditions don’t do crime, or get a half-decent lawyer.

    Where do I begin… do I start with the fact that people get fitted up for crimes, by the police and by other criminals? Then there’s the genuine but mistaken complainant / eyewitness (e.g. David Dougherty). The best lawyer in the world is not going to get you off if, say, an elderly bashed lady or a molested child is sitting in the witness box wrongly pointing the finger. In fact you’ll get extra lashes for traumatising them by trying to prove your innocence.

    But you must know that one can be wrongfully accused since you say you “beat the charge” that almost landed you in jail. Or were you guilty? (go on, you can tell us, there’s still double jeopardy… just).

    Get a half decent lawyer? Well you’d better have $20,000 to $30,000 just lying around then, waiting for the knock on the door. And that’s on a simple charge. Rape, murder, child abuse… anything requiring a QC and you can double that and more. Because no decent lawyer will work for the pittance Legal Aid pays… or if they do they’ll burn out faster than a meteorite.

    Or shall we talk remand? I’d love to get some accurate figures for NZ but I have some for WA’s male remand prison and I’d imagine it’s not wildly different from NZ. This is from the Inspector-General’s report:

    Between 2004 and 2006 there had been a rapid increase in the remand prisoner population, amounting to 34 per cent… By August 2007, 18 per cent of the State-wide prisoner population [including females] were unsentenced. So the situation has not improved, and it would appear that the trend is getting worse.

    …a significant increase in the length of time each remandee spent in prison, with an average growth in length of stay of approximately 8 per cent

    2,880 [per year] were received on remand. It was the first time in an adult prison for almost half of all remandees. Of the admissions, 1,900 were released to freedom without conviction…

    So 67% of those remanded to jail were, in fact, later found to be innocent. Yet their numbers are growing as are the length of their stays. And that’s before the “half decent lawyer” can even get up before a judge and prove their innocence.

    I’d say underfloor heating and a Playstation to pass the time is the very least we owe those people.

    As one man found innocent when I was waiting in court asked the judge… “Where do I go to get my life back?”

  26. Matthew Pilott 26

    Burt, that’s kinda what I meant – there’s nothing similar between the two issues you are referringto, so trying to compare them to make the policies of the previous administration look bad seems a bit tiresome.

    The MS comment made me laugh though!

    I don’t think Burton was a capacity issue – more someone fooling the right people, while the rest weren’t allowed to tell the right people what was going on. Whatever he is, he sure knew how to manipulate the system – I’m not envious of the justice system and parole board who have to deal with these people.

  27. TightyRighty 27

    Do you really want a discussion IB of how the left gets to keep crowing about corruption? we could start with Shane Jones, or Winston, or the police commissioner and his deputy. apt considering the original post.

  28. burt 28

    Matthew Pilott

    Ditto, not envious of the people who’s previous ability to object has been devolved from them in parole board restructures enacted over the previous decade, and the decade before that, and the one before that. Oh, and the one coming up as well.

  29. jbc 29

    I agree with Rex’s first post on this thread – and would have said much the same thing (without the Australian context).

    The problems IB points out are about the nature of the people involved. Corruption and graft are not confined to “the market”. In fact I’d say that governments generally lead the world in this field. Business follows behind.

    FFS; you don’t bribe a judge unless you know they are already on “the take” otherwise you end up behind bars yourself.

  30. justhtefacts 30

    Speaking of crooks, did you guys read where Obama has had to let another of his appointees go for being dishonest.

    It seems that the left are not dealing well with “change” at all.

  31. Pascal's bookie 31

    But that is change, jtf. Under the previous admin ‘being dishonest’ was what got you, and kept you in, the job.

    I think it’s refreshing.

    I see the GOP are actually having strategy meetings with not-joe the not-plumber, in his am-too-a-real-journamalist-slash-political-vunderkind role. Bet that works out real well for them. I’m sure McCain, in the cold sleepless 3AM’s, reflects on how much he loves that guy, and Palin.

    Fair enough on not-joe’s part though. Fate lofted him a pitch and he’s hitting it for all he’s worth. But still, he may have been better to leverage all that free ‘joe the plumber’ advertising into something like, going out on a limb here, a regional plumbing franchise network.

  32. Lew 32


    he may have been better to leverage all that free ‘joe the plumber’ advertising into something like, going out on a limb here, a regional plumbing franchise network.

    Dude clearly has no business sense. He’s got this new sweet job with fame, travel, expense account, meeting famous people and all, and what does he do? Tries to destroy his business model by arguing that the media (that’s him, for those of you who’re a bit slow) shouldn’t be allowed to cover wars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDlst03I3lk

    Pure comic genius. Thank you, John McCain. You might have made a decent president, but damn, reality TV needs you as its casting agent.


  33. QoT 34

    I never realised exercising the cut and paste functions from Google search results could be so taxing

    Oh, Rex, would that it were true. You start off thinking “hey, this is a really untouched area of research, it’ll be fun and new!” and then a year later it’s “why, why didn’t I just do an examination of marriage in Shakespeare??? WHY?”

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