Prison providers urged to compete
■ The State’s economic regulator wants more competition in WA’s prison sector after finding that privately run jails performed better than public ones.
After more than a year investigating the issue, the Economic Regulation Authority released a report last week in which it raised concerns about the accountability of public jails.
It said it cost taxpayers $600 million a year to house WA’s prisoners and it was crucial the money was spent wisely to reduce recidivism.
The ERA found the two privately managed jails — mediumsecurity men’s prison Acacia and minimum-security Wandoo reintegration facility — generally performed well.
But it was unable to report on large parts of the performance of 14 public jails because many did not keep basic facts and figures.
ERA recommendations include overhauling the public system’s record-keeping to ensure it was more accountable and transparent, and to set up a “league table” of prisons.
The ERA urged more competition among the public, private and non-profit sectors to provide prison services.
“Providing information to allow external scrutiny of the public prison system is key to improving performance,” ERA chairman Stephen King said.
Inspector of Custodial Services Neil Morgan largely backed the ERA’s report, saying performance benchmarks for public prisons had been poorly managed for years. He said the total cost of keeping people in prison was immeasurable.
Reducing reoffending was critical but too little was known about what worked and why.