How naive can our political masters be. They let a private prison operator self-report on how well they’re doing then act surprised when it all turns to custard.
It reminds me of Auckland’s private bus operators who for years were allowed to self-report service levels and hardly believing their luck reported reliability rates nudging a fantastical 100 per cent.
Despite endless complaints from customers about late and non-appearing buses gullible Auckland Transport and its predecessor organisations went along with the farce.
But let’s not get sidetracked by the present furore over Mt Eden Prison into a debate over who should be running our prisons. The more basic scandal we should concentrate on is our ongoing predilection to crowd more and more young men – about 50 per cent Maori – behind bars in the first place.
We herd them into metal cages – treat them like trapped animals – then throw up our hands in horror when they behave to type. At about 200 per 100,000 population our incarceration rate is now on a level with countries we do not normally compare ourselves with – Gabon Namibia Moldova and Slovakia. Compare that with Sweden on 66 – Germany on 83 – France 102 – Australia 130 and England 154.
Thanks to the wave of what Victoria University criminology professor John Pratt dubs ‘penal populism’ infecting our politicians the incarceration rate continues to rise despite a fall in crime.
Somehow politicians from across the political spectrum can both praise the police – and themselves – for getting on top of crime – then pop on their Sensible Sentencing Trust supporter’s badge – declare a crime tsunami looms – and back tougher penalties.