2017 Political Economy Seminar Series
Jane Andrew (University of Sydney) ‘“Getting a good score”: The case management work of private prison officers’
Date: Thursday 10 August 2017
Location: Merewether Seminar Room 398
Abstract: For almost forty years governments around the world have experimented with forms of privatisation within the prison sector. Despite claims of cost effectiveness, performance improvements and enhanced transparency, little is known about the impact privatisation has on the delivery of prison services and life within these prisons. As a consequence of privatisation, reporting practices within and about prisons have changed considerably in order to demonstrate compliance with contracts and to communicate performance against specified within Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Service Delivery Outcomes (SDOs) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This paper draws on interview data to explore these new reporting regimes and to understand the effect they have on the work undertaken by correctional officers within private prisons. In particular, we interrogate the production of monthly ‘file notes’ related to the case management of prisoners within one privately managed prison (Service Delivery Outcome 8 (SDO 8)). The file note, which is linked to a scoring system that determines part of the contractor’s performance linked fees, requires correctional officers to write a monthly report on each individual prisoner’s progress through the lens of their own activities as a case manager. We argue that the production and assessment of the file note magnifies the work of the correctional officer, such that the prisoner’s progress can be viewed as a consequence of the officer’s effectiveness, decoupled from other important drivers of rehabilitation – including the broader realities of socio economic disadvantage, and more concretely, the availability of appropriate vocational opportunities and personal development programs within the prison. In assessing the quality of the correctional officer’s file note, as opposed to the prisoner’s progress within the prison, the officer is required to communicate their individual effectiveness as a case manager in order to optimise fee revenue for the firm. While the officers we interviewed voiced significant concerns about their workplaces, they had learnt to write file notes that would “get a good score” because, to do otherwise could be interpreted as poor individual performance. This paper provides some insights into the effect privatisation has on the nature of work within prisons, and in particular, the need to examine reporting practices in order to understand their role in the restructuring of state/market relationships.
About the speaker: Jane Andrew is an Associate Professor in the Discipline of Accounting in the Business School at the University of Sydney.
Jane has a particular interest in the relationship between accounting information and public policy and has written extensively on public accountability, carbon accounting, immigration detention, prison privatisation and whistleblowing. The policy relevance of her work means she is often called upon to contribute to discussions of public policy at the State and Federal level. All of Jane’s work has considered the impact of accounting on issues of equity, justice and well-being within the context of neoliberalism.
In 2016, Jane released a report titled Prison Privatisation in Australia: The State of the Nation providing the first comprehensive review of the costs, performance and accountability of Australian private prisons.
Jane is an Associate Editor for two leading international journals, Abacus and Critical Perspectives on Accounting and is a member of the Editorial Board’s for Accounting, Auditing and Accountability, Advances in Public Interest Accounting and Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal. She is also a member of CPA Australia, The Sydney Institute of Criminology and The Imprisonment Observatory.
Jane teaches financial accounting to postgraduate students and is an active PhD supervisor.
Contact: Gareth Bryant, firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming seminars: https://sydney.edu.au/arts/political_economy/about/seminars/seminar_series.shtml