Lyndon Hood - Farrar baiter, Lower Hutt

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Get Out of Jail Free

You've heard it from a whole bargin-basement of opposition politicians, the media have - as far as I know - bought it, and it's on the lips of bloggers who I vaguely recall were once not National hacks.

The private running of Auckland Central Remand Prison, they say, was better and cheaper than facilities run by the Public Prison Service. Thus, the fact that the Government has ended it is bad.

I'll leave the question of ACRP is as white as it's painted to people who have seen it (even if they are Matt Nippert - scroll down Farrar's post for his comments). As regards the "cheaper":

Confronted with this assertion, Public Prison apologists tend to point out that the place is new - better designed, fully up to date and, not insignificanly, easier to heat. Also that they seem to pay their staff less. All good stuff, but still...

A while back (in May 2004) the hearty folk at Scoop took the novel step of actually looking into the issue in any way. What do we find?

The figures this claim is based on originated, surprise surprise, with the company that runs the prison (part of the same group running certain Aussie detention centres).

And there are a couple of important problems with them:

- They don't include stuff like depreciation on the building, which PPS numbers do. The State is (was) in effect subsidising ACRPs rent.

- They were comparing the costs of Auckland Central Remand Prison, which, you may notice, is a remand prison, with those of a maximum security prison.

When you compare apples with apples then, despite all of the advantages mentioned earlier, everyone's model of prison privatisation costs about 20% or 35% more (with and without property overheads) than the equivalent public prison.

I'll point out the obvious: these numbers come from the Government. But methinks they are more reliable than 'what some guy said'.

More detailed analysis is in the original article. Also, if you want dirt on ACM (the company in question) try the associated interview with Matt Robson.

Update (15/7 10:51am): David Farrar - justly I think - feels the need to clarify his point. It's not about whether this particular private management was good, it's that private is now automatically exluded. Frankly, either position on this issue is 'ideological' (if you apply what Farrar seems to understand by the term both ways). It's just that the privatisation model is more radical and, as far as I know worldwide, less successful.