An article by Annie Gilbertson KPCC news of Califorma that appeared yesterday, “California counties look to private firm to run new state psychiatric hospital, again takes a look at a solution that has been lingering in the wings of state legislatures and policy wonks for several years now, and that is of getting out of the business of running and financing state psychiatric hospitals altogether by the good old mechanism of “outsourcing.” Outsourcing has a decidedly mixed track record, with some successes in various industries, massive job losses in others. In some industries such as major passenger airlines big and small, outsourcing has had disastrous results. Some readers may be able recall vital passenger airplane maintenance duties being outsourced to private companies to avoid higher union wage costs. The outsourcing companies would save the airlines money by employing lower-paid and as it turned out less well-trained technicians and cut corners such as quality control, with mixed and sometimes catastrophic results. Even the ‘business’ of war in the George Bush years saw the use out “outsourcing” which is some military experts’ opinions and views were nothing more than employing American mercenaries to fight in questionable military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember the ill-fated romance with the firm Blackwater that turned out to be a mess?
The federal and state correctional systems have been utilizing corrections companies to run prisons for over two decades now. There are some very solid parallels between the prison “industry” and the state psychiatric hospital spheres. Both of these areas of operation of governmental entities have in the last several decades the huge costs of replacing dozens and dozens of aging, falling down, buildings and facilities built in the late 1800’s. I recall consulting at a state prison in my home state for several years. that prison was from the late 1800’s. Parchman prison in Louisiana is another very famous example of a prison from a different, not so ‘nice’ era.