It is tempting to think that public-private partnerships (PPPs) are most applicable to economically productive domains where the private sector can create value through collaboration with public entities to address social needs, such as workforce development, health, and agriculture. The case for shared value is often harder to make in sectors such as citizen security, which is traditionally thought of as a core responsibility of the public sector. However, in Latin America, a region where many countries have among the highest crime rates in the world, the complex security environment has direct impacts on the private sector. As such, companies, governments, and civil society in countries such as the Dominican Republic are forging innovative partnerships to enhance citizen security.
Private Sector Engagement in the Dominican Republic’s New Prison Model
In many countries in Central America and throughout the region, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, and immature management systems often make prisons incubators for crime, both within and outside of penitentiary walls. Prison personnel exercise limited control over prisons themselves, with many prisoners continuing to engage in criminal activity through cell phones and other contraband that have been smuggled past bribed guards. Inmates in such prisons can continue to direct criminal activities, such as assassinations carried out on the streets, from within the prisons walls. Other prisoners have limited employability and few job prospects once released, so they can easily fall back into lives of crime.
To address the above mentioned challenges, the Dominican Republic has instituted the New Model of Prison Management, which is oriented around making prisons cleaner, offering more educational and professional enrichment opportunities for inmates, and professionalizing prison management for the newly created academy for penitentiary studies. Reportedly, “ten years after [opening] its first prison,” this model, which the Dominican government is implementing prison-by-prison across the country, is “gaining recognition from other countries in the region trying to reduce prison populations and cut recidivism rates.”
Private sector actors determined in the early 2000s that, considering the constraints that extortion was placing on small and medium-sized businesses, justice sector reform was essential, and that prisons were a high-need focus of their efforts. This activism on the part of the private sector played a key role in establishing the New Model for Prison Management.
For example, the Dominican private sector has contributed significantly to the Institute of Professional Technical Training (or the Instituto de Formación Técnico Profesional in Spanish), which has expanded its professional development coverage into the prison system in order to prepare inmates to secure employment upon release and contribute to the Dominican economy. This partnership between the private sector and the penal system creates value for Dominican companies. By providing prison inmates with the skills they need to find employment and stay out of criminal activities once they are released, it eventually makes streets and businesses safer, while also potentially providing a skilled workforce for the companies to pull from – transforming a social problem into a potential business solution.
While the DR New Model is one compelling example of public-private collaboration in citizen security, there are other partnership models across the region emerging in Central America, Mexico, and Colombia. For companies, these partnerships help address the security concerns of their workforce and customer base. For governments and civil society, these partnerships provide resources and capabilities needed to address the needs of citizens. As Latin America continues to tackle the challenge of endemic crime, the importance of citizen security PPPs will only grow.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Karshan.