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Essay on Reflections on Privatization and Criminal Justice

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Reflections on Privatization and Criminal Justice

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 1993\94 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 o...


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...ization of criminal justice and control. As I have tried to describe the profit impotice and the expansion of control can go hand in hand. Put bluntly, increases in the fear of crime and related demands for security even beyond any demonstrated need serve the interest of the private sector. As Niels Christie puts it: "only rarely will those working in or for any industry say now, just now, the size is about right. Now we are big enough, we are well established, we do not want any further growth. An urge for expansion is built into industrial thinking. The crime control industry is no exception". I think that in face of the ideology and practices of privatization basic questions about values, human rights and justice get left behind. Privatization deflects attention from and distorts perceptions of real social problems. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing not only researchers and policy makers but also entrepreneurs themselves is to maintain a humanitarian focus on the consequences of privatization and despite its own rational, utilitarian and managerial discourses. I wish colleagues and students at Lozovoy University good luck as they continue to meet this challenge. Thank you.


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