Locking in savings may come at a cost
THE planned privatisation of the Adelaide Remand Centre, as announced in the State Budget, raises questions about whether a profit-seeking company should be responsible for managing prisoners.
Budget figures suggest up to $10 million in public money per year will be saved from 2022. This is a fair enough objective. However, it has to be done in a way that will not result in even greater problems.
The Adelaide Remand Centre (ARC) is a grim place. It was built to accommodate people who are accused of crimes and are awaiting trial but who, for various reasons, should not be on bail. The delays in many criminal matters coming to trial means that, inevitably, there must be a mix of criminals and innocent people there.
The ARC, a high-security centre, is grossly overcrowded, with cells often doubled or tripled up. People awaiting trial are often at an increased risk of self-harm. At present there are domestic violence education programs at the ARC which aim to minimise violent behaviour. It is vital that these programs are maintained.
We always have to be concerned when taxpayers’ money is being paid to an organisation which (quite reasonably) is looking to make a profit. Private operators are generally not accountable to the public in the same way government agencies are.
The commercial-in-confidence operation of a prison “business” must remain fully accountable and open to government inspection and regulation. Leaving to one side the justifiable concerns about the impact of job losses, we have to guard against rehabilitation programs falling victim to costcutting. The medium and low security Mount Gambier pris- ering prison services. Studies from the US, however, point to worrying issues within private prisons.
The studies show the private sector has greater inmate misconduct, higher staff turnover, and higher levels of recidivism. US prison policy has