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Australia Uses Recidivism-Based Performance Contract at Private Prison

Currently a third of all Australian women prisoners return to prison following their release, but a new pilot program initiated by the government in the state of Western Australia hopes to change those recidivism rates.

According to a November 28, 2016 news report, international conglomerate Sodexo will receive 15,000 Australian dollars ($11,000 U.S.) for each prisoner who stays out of prison for two years post-release, provided the number of such successful former prisoners surpasses a certain level.

Rebecca Hamilton, director of strategic policy at Western Australia’s Department of Corrective Services, said the move was intended to ease overcrowding in the state’s women’s facility. She added that the UK has had measurable success with a similar program.

“So basically what we’re saying to Sodexo is if you can successfully provide programs for a woman so she doesn’t reoffend then we’ll pay you more for that than we will for a woman who comes back into the system,” Hamilton explained.

Sodexo has held the contract to operate the 256-bed Melaleuca Remand & Reintegration Facility since June 2016. Western Australia’s two other private prisons are both run by UK-based Serco. John Welsch, secretary for the Western Australian Prison Officers’ Union, criticized the decision by public officials to let Sodexo manage the women’s facility.

“The government is basically telling experienced public sector staff that they are not up to the [job] of managing the new prison, and it would prefer to give the contract to one of the world’s largest multinational corporations instead,” he said.

In the United States, tying contract performance awards to reductions in recidivism is presently being tried in Pennsylvania, at privately-operated halfway houses. [See: PLN, Sept. 2014, p.50; April 2013, p.44].


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