Improve Private Prison Contracts To Cut Costs And Reduce Reoffending

This is the media release for my research report Cutting costs and reducing reoffending: redesigning private prison contracts for better results.

“Stronger incentives for rehabilitation can improve private prisons and lead to reduced reoffending, less crime, and lower costs for taxpayers,” said Andrew Bushnell, Research Fellow at the free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

The IPA today released a new research report on private prisons in Australia. Eight of Australia’s 98 prisons are operated by private companies. These prisons house an estimated 18 per cent of Australia’s prison population. The report, Cutting costs and reducing reoffending: Redesigning private prison contracts for better results investigates recent moves by governments in Australia and overseas to include incentives for reduced reoffending in private prison contracts.

“Recent independent reviews of private prisons in Victoria and Queensland found substantial savings for taxpayers from prison privatisation,” said Mr Bushnell.

“Along with costs, policymakers also need to consider how private prisons can be most effective in reducing reoffending, which is one of the main drivers of the massive increase in incarceration and related costs that we have seen across Australia in recent years.”

Australia’s incarceration rate is at a record high of 222 per 100,000 adults. Nationally, taxpayers spend more than $15 billion per year on criminal justice, including $4 billion on prison running costs. Despite this expenditure, 46 percent of released prisoners return to prison within two years of their release.

“The introduction of incentives for reduced reoffending is a positive step for private prison contracts. But our research indicates that the existing contracts are likely not optimised for getting the results that we all want,” said Mr Bushnell.

“The performance components of the contracts needs to be more substantial, and should be connected to simple, transparent measures.”

The paper makes a number of recommendations for strengthening private prison contracts. These include increasing the proportion of payments to operators that is based on performance, using a bonus model connected to individual prisoners, and standardising measures of performance across all private and state prisons to enable comparative analysis. The report also discusses some of the possible limitations of pursuing this approach.

“Following the recommendations in this report gives this important experiment the best chance of succeeding,” said Mr Bushnell.

Download the report here.

It Is Time For Criminal Justice Reform In WA

This is the media release for my research brief Why Western Australia needs criminal justice reform.

“The rapid growth of incarceration in Western Australia is imposing significant costs on taxpayers without improving community safety,” said Andrew Bushnell, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Parliament should act now to reform the criminal justice system by expanding alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders and emphasizing the importance of employment for offender rehabilitation.”

Mr Bushnell leads the IPA Criminal Justice Project, a research project focused on the costs of incarceration and how governments can more effectively reduce crime. He is the author of a Parliamentary Research Brief, Why Western Australia needs criminal justice reform, which was distributed today to Western Australian State Parliamentarians.

“The number of people in Western Australia’s prisons has risen 55 percent in the past decade, and the incarceration rate is now the highest among Australian states, with highest rates of all Australian jurisdictions for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

“Over this period, spending on prisons has risen an estimated 45 percent, to $596 million, and this does not include capital works spending, like the expansion of Casuarina Prison.”

In response to these unsustainable trends, the brief recommends the expansion of alternatives to incarceration, like community service, home detention, fines, and restitution orders, as well as the need for work opportunities for offenders, with employment correlated to reducing rates of reoffending.

“39 percent of people released from prison in Western Australia return to prison within two years of their release, and 63 percent of prisoners have been in prison before, but just 16 percent of prisoners participate in commercial industries, a third of the rate in New South Wales,” said Mr Bushnell.

“Reducing reoffending would significantly improve community safety, and work is the key to rehabilitation just as it is the key to a good life.”

The report points to examples of reform in Texas and other parts of the United States as both evidence for the benefits of reform and to illustrate the changing politics of criminal justice.

“Criminal justice reform is now a bipartisan issue. There is widespread agreement that being tough on crime means taking smart steps to reduce crime, not just throwing ever-more money at incarceration.”

“This emerging consensus led to President Trump signing a criminal justice reform law earlier this year,” said Mr Bushnell.

Download the Parliamentary Research Brief here.

An Economic Policy Agenda For Mainstream Australia

Media release for a research brief I co-authored with Daniel WIld.

The 2019 election result was driven by mainstream Australians rejecting an agenda to fundamentally transform Australia. The government now has an opportunity to build and reinforce institutional bulwarks against the forces which undermine mainstream Australian values. To achieve this, public policy should seek to reinforce a community of stakeholders which underpin the success of mainstream Australia and secure the Australian way of life.

There are five key economic themes which underpin mainstream Australian values:

  • Home-ownership provides a stake in local communities and the country.
  • Work provides a stake in human dignity.
  • Enterprise provides a stake in the economy.
  • The payment of tax provides a stake in smaller government.
  • Control over retirement income provides a stake in the future.

The 2019 election demonstrates that policies which reflect the values of mainstream Australians are both popular and good for the national economy and society.

This parliamentary research brief outlines these five economic policy themes, and provides an analysis of the emerging “New Heartland”.

Download the IPA’s Parliamentary Research Brief here.

IPA Research Recommends New Way To Boost Confidence In The Courts

This is the media release for my October 2018 report, Victim appeal: how to address manifestly inadequate sentences.

“Australians deserve to have courts they can trust to always apply common sense standards of justice,” said Andrew Bushnell, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Giving victims the right to direct an appeal against manifestly inadequate sentences will help to restore the public’s confidence in the courts,” said Mr Bushnell.

New research from the IPA’s Criminal Justice Project finds that Australians have consistently reported low confidence in the performance of the courts, and there is reason to believe that this is, in part, based on rare but high profile cases in which judges hand down sentences that depart from normal community standards.

Continue reading

Offenders in community service should be able to do paid work as part of their sentences

This is the media release for my May 2018 research report, Making community corrections work.

“Community corrections is growing rapidly, and we need to act now to make it more effective. One way to do this is to get community-based offenders into more meaningful work by permitting businesses to offer community service opportunities,” said Andrew Bushnell, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

The latest report from the IPA’s Criminal Justice Project, Making Community Corrections Work, released today, provides a national overview of community corrections and outlines how community service, as the chief component of community corrections, can be made more effective through the involvement of commercial businesses.

“With community service becoming a greater part of our criminal justice system, a reconsideration of how we punish criminals in the community is overdue,” said Mr Bushnell.

Continue reading