If you’re a ruthless, amoral corporation looking to make a fairly easy buck off other people’s suffering, you can’t go past running prisons.
The recipients of the services you provide – prisoners – are the most hated and least sympathetic characters in society, so very few really care how badly you treat them. Okay, when you kill them through negligence there’ll be some adverse findings that’ll be embarrassing for your company, but the decision-makers won’t really care. Their masters, the public, choose to believe the absurd lie that you’re treating prisoners to some kind of luxurious holiday accommodation (at taxpayers’ expense!!11!), despite the fact that makes no sense on any level, and many of them quietly applaud abuse. (They certainly won’t vote against a government for being too “tough on criminals”.)
Okay, so the skeptical might ask – how are you meant to make a profit out of running prisons? Surely the state was already spending the bare minimum it could get away with to keep prisoners alive and not have UN inspectors investigating the joint? How can you bid less and carve out a profit margin? Well, firstly, “efficiencies”, which obviously mean crappier conditions for prison employees than the state offers. (Don’t worry, they won’t get too angry with you – they’ve got prisoners to take their frustrations out on.) Secondly, you can make conditions much worse for prisoners than the government could get away with. Your whole value to the minister is a blame-shifting device – when things go horribly wrong, responsibility can be diluted and outrage disippated between the two of you.
Check out what G4S has been able to get away with and still be the “preferred tender” for the Melbourne Custody Centre:
- “The private security firm was last year named in a damning West Australian Coroner’s report, which found it had contributed to the ”wholly unnecessary and avoidable death” of a 46-year-old Aboriginal man in its custody in January 2008.”
- “contributed to the 2005 death of Ian Westcott, who died of an asthma attack in the G4S-run Port Phillip prison. A note found near his body read: ‘Asthma attack. buzzed for help. no response.'”
- “the company had failed to provide a safe environment at Port Phillip when four men hanged themselves in 1997.”
- “A 2006 report by the Victorian Ombudsman and the Office of Police Integrity found inadequacies in the way prisoners were transported, with insufficient attention paid to their conditions, including ”basic amenities for long trips””
I mean, don’t go insane. Minimise the problems as best as you’re able, within the primary goal of cutting costs – but you can get away pretty much with murder. Nobody will care. Particularly when your chief competitor is even worse.
The only people who will object are human rights advocates. And who listens to them?