Managing prisons using a ‘business-like approach: a case study of the Scottish Prison Service
The primary aim of this research is to examine the extent which prison management has been influenced by New Public Management (NPM). Much has been written about the growing influence of NPM on public services like health, transport and education. In the prison field, however, the literature is relatively limited. Accordingly, with particular reference to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), this research attempts to fill this gap in knowledge by exploring the influence of NPM on the SPS and its relation to the use of contractual management of prisons. Key concerns of this research are the development of prison policy during the last two decades, the use of “business-like” mechanisms to manage prisons and the accountability measures which the SPS has undergone as a result of NPM. The main sources of data are interviews with key actors in the recent development of the SPS and documentary analysis. Interviewees were asked during the semi-structured interviews to reflect on the key concerns referred to above. Material from the interviews was then integrated with academic literature, policy papers, annual reports, contracts and other published documents. This research concludes that NPM has affected the SPS on the dimensions of both prison policy discourse and of operations. For the former, the analysis of contemporary prison discourse demonstrates that the focus of prison policy in Scotland has extended over time from traditional concepts, for instance control, deterrence and rehabilitation, to embrace managerial ones such as effectiveness, efficiency and value for money. On the operational dimension, this research reveals that the extensive use of a “business-like” approach in the management of prisons, in particular the delegation of decision-making power from the Headquarters to prison governors; the use of contractual management to manage both private and public prisons; the use of contracting out for prisoner transportation and prisoner programme and the SPS’s focus on ‘customer service’. In summary, the influence of NPM is more far-reaching than the privatisation of public prisons as such. This is because NPM changed the way public prisons are managed by bringing in managerial mechanisms borrowed from the private sector.