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Control As Enterprise: Reflections On Privatization And Criminal Justice

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Thank you very much for the welcome, and for giving my talk. When the Fraser Institute called me last year, they rang up and said they were having a conference and we would like to invite you, and I thought I think you have the wrong person. Basically, everybody else there, except myself and one person from Nova Scotia, were in favour of privatization and very strongly in favour of it, especially with respect to prisons. It was actually very educational and interesting to engage in that debate. First of all I would like to thank you very much for the invitation and to wish you all the best with your new programme. I am glad that you have asked me to speak about privatization and criminal justice because I am sure that nobody here needs me to remind you that privatization is one of the issues of our time. We see this in Canada in the context of budget cuts and trying to reduce the deficit, where privatization is often posed as a solution to problems we are faced with fiscally. We also see it in the West generally. You only look at the labour party in Britain, the new government, to see that they are far more open now to at least some aspects of privatization then would have been the case twenty years ago. I think if we look around the globe in general we see that privatization is an issue in many other places also, and I am thinking here in particular of Russia and other Central and Eastern European countries where there has been massive privatization in the 1990s. I spent 199394 in Lithuania and saw what was going on there, and the scale was phenomenal. I think that made me sensitive to just how big the changes are that can take place, and also sensitized me to how once privatization is set in motion, it can take on an impotice of its own, one that might surprise even the very people that initiated it. That is one reason why even with private prisons, that right now are very minuscule proportionately to prisons in general, that we should take this issue very seriously because it can accelerate and develop in the future. I am also glad that you have invited me to speak about privatization here because although we are surrounded by privatization, including in criminal justice, this phenomenon is relatively little researched. The one exception here might be private police, there has been a fair bit written on private police. But beyond that there is many aspects of privatization in criminal justice that have not received adequate attention. So on the one hand we are surrounded by the phenomenon and on the other hand we don't know as much about it as we should. Even my own work, I might add, privatization is more or less a tangent for me as I do other areas of research. I think it is indication that very few people in Canada, criminologists, are systematically focusing

on this but I keep getting roped back into this. I just wish I had three lives at once so that I could pursue it the way I really want to. Privatization is an area that really needs attention, and lets hope that students here at St. Thomas are going to take this up. Let me just mention one or two topics that need attention. Many people talk about privatization in criminal justice, including myself, mention that it is likely that private companies will try and influence criminal justice policy in various places. Yet when you look for the empirical support for this there is very little factual information there. Or we talk a bit about the decline of the military in industrial conflicts, the end of the Cold War, and new markets opening up for these companies internationally and we see some of the companies moving from the United States into Britain, Australia and now also Canada, and we hear things about them moving into Latin American countries and East European countries, but again this international dimension is one that there has been very little systematic research on. So the whole area is just begging for attention. In discussing privatization there are numerous approaches that I could take. For example we could talk about the history of privatization and how what is happening now is similar or different to what has gone before. Or we could talk about what I think of as positive forms of privatization. Here I am thinking, as any of you who study criminology knows, there are many kinds of troubles that people experience but never comes to the attention of the criminal justice system. People find their own other/alternative ways of dealing with them, and sometimes these are very constructive and positive ways. For example, if somebody you know well steals from you, are you going to call the police? It is likely that you won't and that you have some other way of dealing with that. So that is one positive form of privatization. Not all forms of privatization that are of the private sector are negative. Another positive form of privatization is the involvement of non-profit community groups in criminal justice, and I am thinking here of groups such as the Elizabeth Fry Society and the John Howard Society. I think that much of their work is very positive but they are also part of the private sector. I do think though that their role right now needs a lot of attention in the context of more recent "for-profit" forms of privatization and the challenges that is posing to these traditional non-profit groups. Again another area in need of attention and unfortunately I don't have time to address that particular topic tonight. So this topic of privatization in criminal justice is potentially very broad. Tonight my focus is very specific. I want to talk about corporate and commercial forms of privatization. That is the "for-profit" sector in criminal justice. More specifically, as Dr. MacDonald allude to, my focus is on the entrepreneurial aspect of privatization and this is reflected in my title "Control as Enterprise". As mentioned earlier, my sensitivity to this particular issue has been raised by Niels Christie's book Crime Control As Industry: Towards Goulags Western Style, and as some of you may have noticed that in the first addition of this book that is followed by a question mark, and in the second edition, he dropped the question mark. My sensitivity to the issue has also been sharpened by my experience with the government of Ontario in the early 90s when I served as a Policy Advisor and Executive Assistant to the Minister of Correctional Services and the Solicitor General of Ontario. There I had an opportunity to observe some of the politics of privatization and some of the action that were taken by corporate companies in this area. I think that two basic questions underlie my thoughts in this area. First is, given that privatization of control systems implies profit from control systems, we must ask who profits and at whose expense? And while there cannot be a definitive answer to this question it does seem to me that recent trends



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