The Economic Regulation Authority released its report into the efficiency of the WA prison system in November 2015.
One of the report’s main recommendations is that WA should introduce a commissioning model for WA prisons, which would be based on the model in place in the UK. Under a commissioning model, the private sector, public sector and not-for-profit organisations would compete for the contracts to deliver prison services.
The UK’s experience with the commissioning model has been disastrous. Not only has the model not improved the quality of services, but following its introduction there was a 54% increase in assaults on staff over a two-year period and a 67% increase in suicides over 12 months.
Introducing the commissioning model for WA prisons would lead to a race to the bottom in terms of cost, which will result in less staff, increased safety risks, and experienced officers leaving the system because of lower wages. It would open the door for privatisation of WA prisons.
The ERA report also recommended the introduction of benchmarking, setting a number of standards by which all WA prisons would be judged. This would be difficult in the WA prison system, where prisons are vastly different from one another and spread out over an enormous geographical area.
Even the ERA itself acknowledges that “defining consistent measures that apply across all prisons is challenging,” and was only able to calculate targets for four performance measures in the final report.
Comparing WA prisons would be like comparing apples and oranges, which makes it immensely difficult to introduce benchmarks that should be applied across the board.
A link to WAPOU's submission to the ERA Inquiry can be found here.