Pri­son providers urged to com­pete

Pilbara News - - News - Daniel Mercer

■ 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.

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