New Zealand Private Prisons are Designed to Keep People from Coming Back
Date:  09-04-2017

Data will show if New Zealand's unique "payment-by-result" model is an effective alternative for private prisons
From City Lab:

Last month, the largest private prison operator in the United States announced that it would be closing one of its facilities in New Mexico. The reason? Too many empty beds. “Unfortunately, a declining detainee population in general has forced us to make difficult decisions in order to maximize utilization of our resources,” a representative of Core Civic said.

Few things illustrate the perverse incentives fueling America’s private prison industry more than a spokesperson lamenting a lack of people behind bars.

Of the 1.5 million people incarcerated in the U.S. at the end of 2015 (when the latest data was available), 8 percent were held in private prisons, the majority of them at the state level. (See this fact sheet from the Sentencing Project for complete data on private prison usage by state.) The number of Americans in private prisons has jumped 45 percent since 2000, and in states like Montana and New Mexico, more than 40 percent of inmates are in privately run facilities. The cost to taxpayers is $4 billion annually. That money is usually paid in the form of a stipend per prisoner, meaning private prisons gain revenue the more people are imprisoned. And because stipends are fixed, prison operators are incentivized to scale back education or vocational training programs that help inmates re-enter society. That drive for cost savings has led to understaffing and substandard conditions at many private prisons.

What if, instead, private prisons were incentivized to keep people out of prison? In New Zealand, the government is experimenting with a model meant to do just that. In 2015, it cut the ribbon on a prison designed, from the ground up, to discourage inmates from returning. Continue reading >>>