Once upon a time in the state where I live, prisons were built and maintained by the State Government, which was a bad thing because it simply cost money. Then, one day, someone reasoned, that if private industry took over, it would cost less money, because – as we all know – private industry is much more efficient. Private industry can cut costs and be leaner. (A few examples of lean private companies: HIH, Enron, Lehman Brothers, Ansett).
Of course, a few silly bleeding hearts argued that being lean and efficient is not necessarily a good thing when one is talking about prisons. They argued that prison should be about rehabilitation and that if you just worried about efficiency there was a danger that you just turn the prisoners into people who were more likely to offend. These people completely overlooked the obvious. Once you are doing something for a profit, it’s in your interest to have return customers.
As for first time customers, well, you may need to drum up support. Tougher sentences, mandatory sentences, longer sentences – these all help. So, if you own a prison, it’d be in your interest to buy into media companies, so they could run articles about how outrageous it is that people committing an offence sometimes get given community orders or suspended sentences. Who’s making any money out of that?
Of course, the other thing you could do to help create demand is to make people bored and take away their educational opportunities so that they’re more likely to commit crimes. A few latte-sippers will complain about this, but no-one listens to them, so after a little bit of bleating and the odd Facebook petition, it’ll all go away.
The main thing to remember is that you’re there to make a profit. And that no-one ever complains that it costs half a billion dollars to build a new prison. New schools or hospitals send the State broke, but prisons are necessary. And the fact that we spend much more money on a prisoner than we do on a student is just something you can use to make everyone angry about the cost of prisoners – then you can cut services to the prisoners without anyone caring. Nobody important will ever suggest that if we just spent a portion of this dealing with the problems.
And if they do, just accuse them of class warfare.
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