The United States has the largest number of people in jail. And not per capita but in absolute terms. Yes, despite a population of around 1/4 of China (325 m vs 1.4 billion), there are more people in US jails than in Chinese jails. And of the perhaps 2.5 million in US jails, see the lovely diagram following, perhaps 1/7th are incarcerated in California.
Why are these numbers so and what happened around 1980 that kicked up a previously continuous 60 year trend? Well, consideration might be given to increased focus on crime or perhaps the notion of privatised prisons. But greater weight should be given to the role of prison guard unions.
In 2016-17 in California, it cost around US$71K per annum to house to incarcerate an inmate:
Since 2010-11, the average annual cost has increased by about $22,000 or about 45 percent. This includes an increase of $7,900 for security and $7,200 for inmate health care. This increase has been driven by various factors, including (1) employee compensation, (2) increased inmate health care costs, and (3) operational costs related to additional prison capacity to reduce prison overcrowding.
And not only did the numbers of inmates increase and the quality of prisons decrease but:
The growth of California’s incarceration system, and the decline of its quality, tracks the accession to power of the state’s prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (“CCPOA”). The CCPOA has played a significant role in advocating pro-incarceration policies and opposing pro-rehabilitative policies in California. In 1980, CCPOA’s 5,600 members earned about $21,000 a year and paid dues of about $35 a month. After the rapid expansion of the prison population beginning in the 1980s, CCPOA’s 33,000 members today earn approximately $73,000 and pay monthly dues of about $80. These dues raise approximately $23 million each year, of which the CCPOA allocates approximately $8 million to lobbying.
The US 3 strikes laws; where did they come from, where did they start and who where biggest advocates? Would you be surprised to learn that is was the Californian prison union.
The formula is simple: more prisoners lead to more prisons; more prisons require more guards; more guards means more dues-paying members and fund-raising capability; and fund-raising, of course, translates into political influence.
And you may ask, why is Spartacus writing on this site about US prisons? To provide another example of public servants and their unions perverting public policy to benefit public servants and their unions.
Which brings Spartacus to the horrible, horrible incidents recently reported from the Northern Territory. It is saddening and sickening to hear about it. But from a public policy and public resource allocation perspective, it appears a similar phenomena occurring to that described above.
Now this post is not what Spartacus really wanted to write, but as Spartacus discussed earlier, this is the compromise that had to be made to manage the risk of Section 18C of the Race Discrimination Act. So …
Spartacus was recently listening to an interview on SkyNews on the subject. Unlike the ABC, SkyNews tries at least to present views from both political sides. On this panel, the person “of the left” kept advocating for more tax dollars and more resources and more regulation and more legislation to prevent such incidents happenings. More, more, more. That’s correct. Rewarding failure with more powers and resources.
thus far. has anyone lost a job? Has there been a single system wide inquiry announced or conducted? Has there been a single change to the management and oversight of such issues? NO! Has anything changed on the ground since before or after the 2007 Intervention set up by the Howard Government to:
You know the intervention in response to the Little Children are Sacred report. The report issued in June 2005; 13 fricken years ago!
But you may also ask, are there not there already lots of powers and resources allocated to improve the welfare of Indigenous Expenditures? Well. The Productivity Commission prepares a report every couple of years on Indigenous Expenditures. This report looks at government spending across the 3 levels of government in Australia (Federal, State and Territory and Local). The most recent report was the Indigenous Expenditure Report 2017. According to this report:
- In 2015-16, total direct government expenditure on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was estimated to be $33.4 billion, a real increase from $27.0 billion in 2008-09.
- In 2015-16, the estimated direct expenditure per person was $44 886 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, around twice the rate for non-Indigenous Australians ($22 356)
Yes. You read that correctly. $33.4 billion per annum and growing. But what is needed is more resources.
A valid question to ask is whether the lot of indigenous Australians has improved or is on an upward trajectory? Then have a look at the Closing the Gap report and draw your own conclusions. Oh and have a look at the news from the Northern Territory also.
Another valid question to ask is whether tax payers are getting value for money? Are the outcomes, as they may be, being delivered in the best way? Well have a look again at the Closing the Gap report and draw your own conclusions
What is likely the case here is that there are too many vested interests making very good returns from keeping things as they are and in perpetuating the current model. Don’t worry about indigenous Australians or their children; the well meaning bureaucrats and others living off the current $30 billion plus tax payer dollars spent have mortgages to pay and families to feed. After all, according to the Corporate Plan of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet:
In 2017-18, we will work with Indigenous leaders, communities, other Commonwealth government departments, and state and territory governments to refresh the Closing the Gap targets.
Yes. Let’s refresh the Closing the Gap targets. Being accountable for meeting the targets, that’s clearly for others. There is no accountability just accounting; $33 billion and counting.
Spartacus does not know what the answer is, but it seems doubtful that more of the same with an increased price tag is not it.