…& fun? Leftwing Criminologist (over in Bangor boiling his water because privatised Welsh Water are incapable of supplying potable supplies…for the third time in as many years!) posts about a very strange phenomena-
This article in yesterday’s Financial Times reported that charities are forming consortiums with private companies to bid for new prisons in the UK.
Already NACRO has joined forces with Group 4 Securicor (G4S) and Rayner Crime Concern is teaming up with Serco. Apparently this is so that “involvement of the voluntary sector at an early stage in design and management of new jails would help improve conditions and effective resettlement of inmates” according to NACRO’s Paul Cavadino. Previously charaties occasionally subcontracted things like resettlement and drug rehabilitation.
Of course this is presented as far more humane than just letting the private companies run prisons like they already do in 11 across the country. But privately run prisons are on average run worse than public sector ones and are overcrowded so why let the private sector be involved at all, if we assumed that the involvement of charities was a good thing in prisons surely this could be done in the public sector?
The article gives the game away later on when it says “Ministers believe that such building and operational models will make it politically easier to push ahead with the prison-building programme.” Exactly, PFI has become so unpopular because it is a disaster waiting to happen (or alreayd happening in many places), and the involvement of charities is meant to make it seem all cute a cuddly and safe…
[more at Leftwing Criminologist]
I would add this from a while back in The Independent, apparently corporations are wary of running jails, they like the money for building them but they don’t want the problems when their profit driven ways end in horror. To some extent this is good news, while they may be cheeky sods it does hint we are not as far gone as the US prison industrial system-
Most importantly, there is division in the business community over how the prisons should be procured. The much-vilified Private Finance Initiative (PFI), under which the public sector has paid companies to build, maintain and operate hospitals over a period of 25 to 30 years, is thought to be the model favoured by the Government.
However, Chris Booton, a director at construction company Wates and one of the key advisers to Lord Carter when he looked into the idea of Titan prisons last year, believes PFI is flawed in this instance.
He says that a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union last month, which invited builders to express an interest in the Titan projects, “implied it is likely to be PFI”. But he adds: “The public sector should operate these prisons. They’re flagship, so why not use Titans to prove the public sector is the best at operating them?”
He suggests using the existing prisons roster of construction firms to build the Titans. A dozen companies, including Galliford Try and Kier, have worked on around 50 projects for more than 20 prisons across the country. Mr Booton argues that they have built up expertise and the Government could run a quick and simple “mini-competition” to select the construction teams.
While not dismissing PFI as the most effective model for Titans, Mark Fox, chief executive of outsourcing trade body the Business Services Association, agrees to an extent with Mr Booton. “Delivering prisons is unique in the public sector in that it is the imprisonment of human beings,” he says. “We need really good management from the private sector and strong public sector management overseeing that. The public sector mustn’t aggregate responsibility on the private.”
Yes, try and hold back your tears of sympathy. So they want the charities in perhaps because they acknowledged they are incapable of running prisons humanely (perhaps lacking human capacity the business peep hints at, it’s not our fault, we’re profit driven sociopaths mate, we should be locked up!) but as well as the odd spectacle of charities running prisons I think they may also be convenient fall guys when shit hits fans. As LC notes NACRO is called a charity but- NACRO for example gets over 80% of funding from the state– so there is some arms length shenanigans in this. Sort of public run prisons a bit but not really and enough parties involved for them all to to deny responsibility when the Titans, which every independent concerned body has derided but the government insists on pushing through, are an enormous horrific failure.
It’s also a weird ideological mash-up, of course no one would commit heresy against The Church of the Free Market so something that is demonstrably done best by public bodies cannot be seen to happen, the government will not have democratically accountable public projects even in basic law and order so this unwieldy hybrid of PFI, charities (real and arms length) and government is concocted so the disciples don’t get aroused. It is being done in welfare too (also similar as it is proposed that unemployed people are forced to do community service just like convicted criminals, the moral assumption behind it is clear) where charities are being drawn into running proposed workfare programs. And that’s where the ‘not as bad as the US’ wears off, essential services run by charities is a right wing wet dream, it fundamentally implies:- you have a choice about helping some people and if you choose not to, fuck ’em they starve (let them eat cake?), humans have no duty to other humans, there is no such thing as society. Even though we implement a ruthless system relying on a reservoir of unemployment and inequality we have no moral responsibility towards the victims of our policies. The world is for winners and not losers, why trouble our beautiful minds with them.