Cheaper, better, and more accountable? Twenty-five years of prisons privatisation in Victoria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Twenty-five years after the Kennett government began privatising prisons, Victoria has the world's highest proportion of prisoners in private prisons. When the privatisation project began, it was confidently expected that privately managed prisons would be cheaper, better, and more accountable than traditional public sector provision. This paper examines whether those anticipated benefits have been realised. In doing so, we assess system-wide operating costs, specific measures of performance, and accountability of the prison system between 1992 and 2017. Using publicly available data, we conclude temporary lower costs occurred but have not been sustained. Similarly, performance improvements are mixed, and enhanced accountability is contested. Although the performance information now available on Victoria's prisons is superior to what was available in the pre-privatisation era, successive Victorian governments have also overseen arrangements that severely curtail dissemination of such data. This has restricted the capacity of Parliament and the public not only to hold government to account for the operations of the prison system, but also to evaluate the efficacy and impact of the prisons privatisation project. We conclude a more definitive assessment will only be possible when current limitations on accessing performance and other data are lifted enabling greater public scrutiny of Victoria's prison system.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - May 2019

Keywords

  • accountability
  • operational costs
  • performance measurement
  • prisons
  • privatisation

Cite this

@article{896f79c9450643e485bbdda85e0eae38,
title = "Cheaper, better, and more accountable? Twenty-five years of prisons privatisation in Victoria",
abstract = "Twenty-five years after the Kennett government began privatising prisons, Victoria has the world's highest proportion of prisoners in private prisons. When the privatisation project began, it was confidently expected that privately managed prisons would be cheaper, better, and more accountable than traditional public sector provision. This paper examines whether those anticipated benefits have been realised. In doing so, we assess system-wide operating costs, specific measures of performance, and accountability of the prison system between 1992 and 2017. Using publicly available data, we conclude temporary lower costs occurred but have not been sustained. Similarly, performance improvements are mixed, and enhanced accountability is contested. Although the performance information now available on Victoria's prisons is superior to what was available in the pre-privatisation era, successive Victorian governments have also overseen arrangements that severely curtail dissemination of such data. This has restricted the capacity of Parliament and the public not only to hold government to account for the operations of the prison system, but also to evaluate the efficacy and impact of the prisons privatisation project. We conclude a more definitive assessment will only be possible when current limitations on accessing performance and other data are lifted enabling greater public scrutiny of Victoria's prison system.",
keywords = "accountability, operational costs, performance measurement, prisons, privatisation",
author = "Valarie Sands and Deirdre O'Neill and Graeme Hodge",
year = "2019",
month = "5",
doi = "10.1111/1467-8500.12384",
language = "English",
journal = "Australian Journal of Public Administration",
issn = "0313-6647",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",

}

Cheaper, better, and more accountable? Twenty-five years of prisons privatisation in Victoria. / Sands, Valarie; O'Neill, Deirdre; Hodge, Graeme.

In: Australian Journal of Public Administration, 05.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Cheaper, better, and more accountable? Twenty-five years of prisons privatisation in Victoria

AU - Sands, Valarie

AU - O'Neill, Deirdre

AU - Hodge, Graeme

PY - 2019/5

Y1 - 2019/5

N2 - Twenty-five years after the Kennett government began privatising prisons, Victoria has the world's highest proportion of prisoners in private prisons. When the privatisation project began, it was confidently expected that privately managed prisons would be cheaper, better, and more accountable than traditional public sector provision. This paper examines whether those anticipated benefits have been realised. In doing so, we assess system-wide operating costs, specific measures of performance, and accountability of the prison system between 1992 and 2017. Using publicly available data, we conclude temporary lower costs occurred but have not been sustained. Similarly, performance improvements are mixed, and enhanced accountability is contested. Although the performance information now available on Victoria's prisons is superior to what was available in the pre-privatisation era, successive Victorian governments have also overseen arrangements that severely curtail dissemination of such data. This has restricted the capacity of Parliament and the public not only to hold government to account for the operations of the prison system, but also to evaluate the efficacy and impact of the prisons privatisation project. We conclude a more definitive assessment will only be possible when current limitations on accessing performance and other data are lifted enabling greater public scrutiny of Victoria's prison system.

AB - Twenty-five years after the Kennett government began privatising prisons, Victoria has the world's highest proportion of prisoners in private prisons. When the privatisation project began, it was confidently expected that privately managed prisons would be cheaper, better, and more accountable than traditional public sector provision. This paper examines whether those anticipated benefits have been realised. In doing so, we assess system-wide operating costs, specific measures of performance, and accountability of the prison system between 1992 and 2017. Using publicly available data, we conclude temporary lower costs occurred but have not been sustained. Similarly, performance improvements are mixed, and enhanced accountability is contested. Although the performance information now available on Victoria's prisons is superior to what was available in the pre-privatisation era, successive Victorian governments have also overseen arrangements that severely curtail dissemination of such data. This has restricted the capacity of Parliament and the public not only to hold government to account for the operations of the prison system, but also to evaluate the efficacy and impact of the prisons privatisation project. We conclude a more definitive assessment will only be possible when current limitations on accessing performance and other data are lifted enabling greater public scrutiny of Victoria's prison system.

KW - accountability

KW - operational costs

KW - performance measurement

KW - prisons

KW - privatisation

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85066884413&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/1467-8500.12384

DO - 10.1111/1467-8500.12384

M3 - Article

JO - Australian Journal of Public Administration

JF - Australian Journal of Public Administration

SN - 0313-6647

ER -