Have you got your tin foil hats on? It's Conspiracy Time! Your favourite paranoid family show.
In July of last year there were reports that Serco, the private company that runs Mt Eden prison, was failing to meet targets and was reported with such apt headlines as Serco Fails to Meet Targets. They failed to meet 15 out of 37 to be exact. Bill English even fronted to media to defend Serco since they were under investigation in England for unsafe practices: Government Defends Prison Contractor.
Now Corrections have released, for the first time ever, a league table on prisons. This has been reported with such headings as:
Private Prison gets a ratings tick
Private Prison fairs well
Private Prison tends to ailing puppy, saves Christmas
Well, you get my drift.
The report, surely, takes the pillow of soothing and places it across the face of the nation. "Nothing to worry about in privatizing our prison system, sleeeeep." BUT, and this is when the tin foil should be reached for, there are some interesting issues with this report and this miraculous turn around where Tolley suggest that we can 'learn something from Serco'.
Looking at some of the angles media have taken with this you'd be justified in thinking that perhaps private is doing better than public. Well, that's not exactly true. Out of 17 prisons "six are exceeding their performance targets, eight are operating effectively and three are needing improvement" - their positions can also leap about on the table depending on whether any instances occur within that quarter reporting. This has just been a snapshot that shows Serco isn't completely sucking along with 14 other prisons. Voxy does a good write-up here.
The table was released with data collected from September 2012 and the year to last December and will be released quarterly after this. It should also be noted that:
Prisons with large numbers of remand, high and maximum security
prisoners are treated differently from prisons with more low and minimum
security prisoners, and their results are weighted so there’s an even
playing field and performances can be compared.
Anne Tolley won't release the raw data. In fact she's told the NZ Herald that they'll have to go through the Official Information Act. The supposed point of releasing the prison league tables was to promote transparency, but on hearing this, and on hearing how the data has been massaged, this seems more like a public relations exercise in order to sell further privatisation down the road.
Are Serco and the Government in talks to take over managing more prisons? All I know is that I can always use extra tinfoil for the Sunday roast.