Friday, December 01, 2006

The problem with "buy to let" prisons

According to the front page of the Guardian the Home Office is planning to sell shares in any new prisons it build. The Guardian claims it will be a kind of "but to let" scheme where the public will get "a steady guaranteed dividend from the "rental income". The inspiration for the idea is, apparently, the fact that Gordon Brown will not spend the money to build extra prison capacity, thus opening up ownership to us, Joe Public, can raise a little extra cash.

When I read about this last night on 18 Doughty Street I couldn't help but ask whether it was a Friday joke. As was pointed out by Iain, what if you were a judge with a stake in a prison? Also, as someone else pointed out, what if you had a stake in a prison and you found yourself about to be sent down? Would the prisons have special shareholders quarters?

If the idea is genuine there is a more worrying aspect to it though. After all, it's being pitched as this being a recession proof constant revenue generate from rolling rental income. Does that not imply, tacitly at least, an acceptance on the part of Government that it cannot reduce crime? Surely, if crime is going down as we are so often told, then buying into this scheme would be a bad thing to do because it should have, if Government is successful at tackling crime, diminishing returns over time.

Personally I'm still minded that it's not a genuine policy, and the reason I say that is what appears to be the dig at the dour Scottish one at the Treasury from his potential leadership contender, or is equally Scottish, at the Home Office. When you read it, it's pretty clear the tone is "this is only happening because Gordon Brown is tight".


Snafu said...

Does this mark the high tide of Government providing essential public services such as law and order and defence?

Will investors need third party fire and theft insurance!?!

Anonymous said...

You were very good on Doughty Street last night!

Re prisons - this is another socialist idea jotted down on the back of an envelope. A new and exciting initiative. With all the crime in their country, I think the British get quite enough excitement wondering whether their car will be intact in the parking lot.

I have a better solution that I mentioned on a blog once before, but didn't get any takers. Bear with me; there is a point.

Almost all crime is committed by young men - up to around age 35 or 40. Therefore:

First offence: six months. No parole. Just long enough to get a taste of how awful losing one's freedom is.

Second offence: set term of two years. No parole. Gives them a chance to realise the grinding boredom and constraints. (No TV, BTW. No gyms. Just an exercise yard.)

Third offence: Proven recidivist. Banged up until 35th birthday. Mandatory. No parole. When he gets out, his old mates will have split up; some will be married or shacked up with children. Some may even be employed. Anyway, most of them will have retired from crime.

This would require a huge increase in prison accommodation. However,I suggest that they be designed to be easily convertible to luxury apartments. As the bulge goes through, prisons could be vacated one by one and sold off privately to recoup most of the investment.

dizzy said...

I enjoyed Doughty Street last night. An interesting idea Verity, A little too radical for my small c conservatism perhaps.

Tapestry said...

Yes. You were good on TV last night. But you poopooed the idea that the Italians were involved in Litvinenko's murder.

Yet he revealed that Romano Prodi was the KGB's top agent in Italy, and he was of course head of the EU Commission. The threat from Litvinenko to Italy and the EU was greater than it was to Russia.

Scaramella checks out as having acrried around Polonium. It looks increasingly like an Italian job.

dizzy said...

I didn't poo poo it, I just said that there will be many different conspiracy theories abound about it.

Just because Scaramella has been shown to have been exposed to radiation as well doesn't mean it was an Italian job.

Tapestry said...

It is not a theory that Litvinenko stated that Romano Prodi was the top KBG agent in Italy.

dizzy said...

No, but it is a theory to deduce from that it was an "Italian job"

Tejus Ramakrishnan said...

lol.. true capitalism.. I wonder if the shareholders will be able to choose the prisoners.. just how they choose directors in a company.. cuz then we could send the whole labour party down there in order to maintain peace & stability in the nation..