Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Prisons and Jails

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Prisons and Jails
Learning Team A
CJA/303
June 9, 2010
James Wilson

Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Prisons and Jails
In the United States, prison overcrowding and budget cuts within the criminal justice system have lead to an increase in the need and the development of private prisons and jails. According to Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (2010), "A private prison is a place in which individuals are physically confined by a third party that is contracted by a local, state, or federal government agency. Private prison companies typically enter into contractual agreements with local, state, or federal governments that commit prisoners and then pay a per diem or monthly rate for each prisoner confined in the facility” (Private Prisons, para. ). There are several advantages and disadvantages to private prisons and jails, as well as conflict. The government believes that contracting with reputable private firms is one way to cut cost in prisons and eliminate overcrowding. Studies have shown that private prison construction is 24% lower than state built systems (Reed, 2003). Along with cutting cost, a private facility will allow the government to increase housing capacities at a rapid rate. For example in Houston, Texas; a new Immigration and Naturalization Service facility was estimated to cost $26,000 per bed and built in 30 months through government construction (Reed, 2003). A private firm did the job at $14,000 per bed and took less than six months to build (Reed, 2003). With the cost of construction being decreased and time saved, overcrowding was also reduced. Private facilities can offer officials powerful tools to ensure good conduct (Segal, 2001). Private contracts can be a powerful tool against the abuse of authority. An effective performance-based facility will reward private firms for providing the care public officials require, and penalize firms for breaking such contract (Segal, 2001). Private firms can offer states more flexibility in planning and designing (Reed, 2003). A private firm will be forced to make the public’s safety and inmate’s treatment at a high priority to avoid negative attention. Many private prison and jail contracts specify a daily rate of reimbursements per prisoner. The private operator and the state would select a location where, the prison can be expanded if need be. The operation of a private facility could be managed by statutory authority, which is a nongovernmental unit, or public trust, pursuant to a contract with the United States. The statutory Authority could grant housing care and control of a minimum or medium security level prison owned or operated by a contractor (G. J, 1998). Some disadvantages to privatizing prisons and jails are the deprivation of physical liberties and that the private sector would gain financially. When financial gain becomes the motive for operation the prison, competition begins and the quality of operation and care decreases. When quality decreases problems arise. The focus is lost and decreasing the operations of the prison can increase. With privatizing prisons the risk is run that companies may cut corners, make careless mistakes, and be understaffed. An understaffed prison presents a high risk for the officers as well as inmates and public safety in the event of an escape. One should ask will the private officers receive the same quality of training that government certified guards receive. Privately run prisons and jails will not provide the same quality of accountability in securing the surrounding communities. By privatizing the profit margin compromises public safety. Whether a prison is privately or publicly run one could identify advantages and disadvantages socially and logistically. Some believe by privatizing a prison a decline in new inmates would occur. This belief is based on the fact that private prisons would not offer the luxuries of public prisons....
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