Lock­ing in sav­ings may come at a cost

The Advertiser - - OPINION - TIM MEL­LOR

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

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