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Israel: Prison expert denounces for-profits.

International private prisons expert criticizes government bill
Prison Privatization Report International editor Stephen Nathan:
The Australian government had to pay $22 million in compensation to a prison operator.
January 19, 2004

“The government bill establishing a privately managed prison is bad, will not serve the public interest, and will enrich private corporations at the public expense,” asserts international private prison expert Stephen Nathan of University of Greenwich, London. Nathan was speaking at a hearing by the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, which is preparing the bill for its second and third Knesset readings.

Nathan, who has been investigating private prisons around the world since the 1980s, told the committee that it could not make a decision on the merits without the budget data necessary for a utility analysis of privatization. Among other things, Nathan asked whether the government was planning a financial reserve for compensating the tender winner, in the event that the winner does not carry out the task properly, and the state must take control of the private prison.

According to Nathan, this is not a merely theoretical possibility; such a case has already occurred in Australia, which privatized a prison housing 125 women inmates. After four years of unsuccessful management, the government had to remove the private operator, and pay it $22 million. Nathan claimed that case in Australia proved that the cost of government supervision of privatized prisons was equal to government spending on the prisons before privatization.

”Someone will make a lot of money out of this privatization, and will certainly not settle for just one prison,” Nathan predicted. He also raised the question of how the prisoners’ freedom to petition the Supreme Court would be preserved, and who would pay for it.

In response to Nathan’s comments, Ministry of Public Security director general Shmuel Hershkovitz told the committee that Nathan’s objections were not convincing. “We’ve learned from the failures mentioned by Nathan. We’ll guarantee that prisoners in the private prison will suffer no injury to their status or rights,” he said.

After the committee discussion was concluded, chairman MK Yuri Shtern (HaIhud HaLeumi) said, “After all, this is a trial. The fact that we’re setting up a privately managed prison through legislation will prevent the automatic extension of the experiment. This puts Israel ahead of other countries that have tried privatization.”

The explanations accompanying the law (Amendment no. 26, Prison Ordinance) stipulate that it refers to the management and operation of one prison with a maximum occupancy of 800 inmates.

Published by Globes [online] - - on January 19, 2004

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