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Independently verified reductionism: prison privatization in Scotland

Cooper, Christine and Taylor, Phil (2005) Independently verified reductionism: prison privatization in Scotland. Human Relations, 58 (4). pp. 497-522. ISSN 0018-7267

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Abstract

The Scottish Parliament recently considered proposals, which, if implemented, would lead to a considerable expansion of prison privatization. Both the Scottish Prison Service and the Scottish Executive used what they claimed to be an independently verified cost saving of £700 million as the major justification for these proposals. The way this figure was constructed and used provides an example of the increasing tendency on the part of government to quantify what cannot be quantified, to 'make the invisible visible'. This article uses several methods to interrogate this figure of £700 million, particularly the role played by 'net present value' in its construction. Its fuller significance emerges from an understanding of the contexts of the Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnership, the experience of prison privatization and the foreclosure of alternatives to privatization. This article is based upon an analysis of government documentation, interview evidence with key players and testimony given by them to a cross-party committee charged with investigating these proposals.