Paying for Justice: Public Private Partnerships Key to Maintaining our Justice Systems
The cost for financing social infrastructure projects in the U.S., particularly justice facilities, has proven to be a challenging and complex discussion given current fiscal austerity and restraint. Declining resources and an apparent political unwillingness to raise additional revenue to improve or replace public facilities means the enthusiasm to invest in justice facilities is hindered by unpopular and vexing political opinion. Additionally, a lack of awareness of the existing cost to operate these buildings is a result of government deferring building maintenance that increases the operational and upkeep cost of maintaining the buildings. Essentially, this band-aid approach is barely able to keep the doors open and meet the minimum needs of serving the public.
Seeking creative ways to finance these justice facilities has opened political discourse across the country. Clients are exploring new ways to finance the investments and operations to address the archaic conditions of many justice facilities. Part of this dialogue leverages the private sector to deliver, finance, and maintain these facilities. Many nations including Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have already developed a process for Public Private Partnerships to deliver infrastructure projects.
With all the hype that Public Private Partnerships (P3) espouses as an alternative means of delivering justice facilities, its usage has seen limited impact in the U.S. Like any new idea, politicians take a circumspect approach to its application in a real world situation. Though some laud it as a panacea to cure the infrastructure issue our county faces, few have attempted to implement it as a viable approach for delivering buildings.
Effective P3 projects must establish real value as a win-win partnership between the public and private sector. P3 benefits include: faster delivery time, increased certainty and accountability for the operational condition of the facility, diminished financial risk for the taxpayer, budgetary certainty over a long period of time, lower lifecycle costs, and the use of innovative material, systems, and technologies. P3 projects may not be to the best solution for all projects. As a rule of thumb, the private side feels that justice projects with a value of over $100 million is the minimum target for Public Private Partnerships to invest resources and finances.
In the future, P3 delivery model is one approach that undoubtedly will offer the U.S. another way of dealing with a social infrastructure desperately in need of repair. And this new model, in some cases will provide 21st century innovation to improve how we deliver justice services through our courts, detention and corrections facilities.