How true is Christie’s warning that an increasingly privatized penal service threatens the ethics and effectiveness of the criminal justice system?
More aspects of the penal system are now privatized, and are set to increase. This includes the privatization of such services as prisons, electronic tags, catering companies, probation work or prison escort services. David Taylor-Smith, head of the world’s biggest security firm, G4S says he expects private companies will be running large parts of the UK’s police service within five years (Taylor and Travis, 2012). Nils Christie’s text (2000) “Crime Control as Industry” draws upon increasing prison populations in the US. However reflecting upon that the prison population in England and Wales has increased from 41,800 prisoners to over 86,000 in 14 years (Ministry of Justice, 2013, 1) Christie also looks upon other countries that face similar problems and how this and modern crime control represents a move 'towards gulags, western type’ (Christie, 2000, 15). He describes the criminal justice system today as a “Pain Delivery” service (Christie, 2000, 143) and argues that it is regulated by the amount of pain they choose to inflict on society and not by the actual number of crimes committed. Christie also identifies changes in capitalist societies and their social organisation, this he says is due to factors such as a larger readiness to report incidents to the police and social controls have declined producing a greater ‘supply’ of criminal acts (Jones & Newburn, 2002, 175)
However the main force behind this is crime control becoming a commodity, as represented by the expanding privatization market. Christie argues that crime control is now a product and privatization of the penal system has made it possible to make it a profitable business, and this can damage the ethics and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. On the other hand there is research showing how privatization can be beneficial, proving effective and working well with other third sector organisations and there is some contemporary research showing how private prisons for example are proving a success.
With a higher prison population this means they are overcrowded and more expensive to run and the easiest thing to do is to turn prisoners over to private companies. In England and Wales, September 2012 there were 12,872 prisoners held in private prisons, which is 15% of the prisoner population. This is a higher proportion than in the US, where the figure is around 9% (Prison Reform Trust, 2013). There has been a huge debate whether private prisons threaten the ethics of the criminal justice system and if the overall effectiveness is acceptable.
HMP Oakwood is the UKs largest privately own prison and a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (2013) is an example why many consider private prisons unethical and inefficient. Oakwood is ran by G4s and opened in April 2012 as a super-size prison, capable of imprisoning...