NAME: AHMEEY PRYNCE
CRN: PAD 705-02 (FINAL PAPER)
TOPIC: PRISON PRIVATIZATION POLICY.
As a government policy, privatization usually involves the government handing over
the delivery of government services to private and non-profit organizations. By
doing so, it is believed that it allows the government to provide better services in
terms of being more efficient, more effective and more responsive. In addition, it
helps government to save money because they are no longer saddled with those
benefits that government workers must have. Prison privatization therefore
involves the government handing over the operation and management of federal,
state or city-run correctional facilities to private for-profit organizations. This
government policy solution was as a result of limited funds in providing and
maintaining new facilities, prison overcrowding and increasing rate of
incarceration. By using this strategy, the government believes that it will save cost
and help them focus on other social policies, public works and infrastructures.
But not withstanding the above reason, this aspect of government service delivery
among all others has been a subject of much debate and controversy. While
proponents of privatization support this strategy on the basis that private
sector innovation and initiative can do things better than the public sector,
opponents on the other hand argue on issues such as the ethical consequence of
delegating the punishment function within the criminal justice system
to private actors and whether there is any significant difference in terms of cost,
quality of security and conditions of imprisonment.
In analyzing this issue, it is important to understand the basis upon which prisons
were established. Predominant theories suggest that prisons are intended to serve
as a place of reformation or rehabilitation, among meeting other social goals such as
incapacitation, discipline, deterrence and retribution. These reasons basically
explains government’s intention in establishing correctional facilities.
In United States, the first private-run correctional facility opened in 1984. By the
year 2005, about two hundred (200) private-run correctional facilities have
emerged in thirty three (33) states housing a total of one hundred and seven
thousand (107,000) inmates.
Proponents of privatization claim that this drastic increase in construction of new
prisons was as a result of private organizations being in a better position to access
funds much faster than government through private investors. And also the idea of
competing for contracts drives down cost and increases efficiency in operation.
On the other hand, critics argue that the private interest and profit motive of these
private organizations encourages them to cut corners, resulting in diminished
conditions of confinement for inmates, a risk to public safety and more dangerous
environment for both inmates and correction officers. According to them, poorly
trained guards and higher turnover increases the risk of escapes, inmate violence
and prisoner maltreatment. And this cost of poor quality is often shifted back to the
public sector as county or state police deals with escapes, court systems cope with
prison lawsuits and public hospitals treat injured inmates.
Among those very vocal in opposing this idea of privatization are correctional
workers labor unions. One of the reasons is that under privatization, they
become a kind of quasi-government workers. That is, they not only receive lesser
wages than what was being paid to them under the state or federal-run prisons but
also they loose all the benefits, privileges and rights of full government employees.
But private organizations argue that their operational costs are comparatively lower
than the government-run...
References: (1) Austin, James and Garry Coventry. 2001. Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
(2) Culp, Richard F. 2005. "The Rise and Stall of Prison Privatization: An Integration of Policy Analysis Perspectives." Criminal Justice Policy Review 16(4):412-42.
(3) Government Accountability Office. 1996. Private and Public Prisons: Studies Comparing Operational Costs and/or Quality of Services. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
(4) Pratt, Travis C. and Jeff Maahs. 1999. "Are Private Prisons More Cost-Effective than Public Prisons? A Meta-Analysis of Evaluation Research Studies." Crime & Delinquency 45(3):358-71.
(5) Conover, Ted. 2001. Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing. New York: Vintage Books.
(6) Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.
(7) Mauer, Marc and Meda Chesney-Lind, eds. 2003. Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment. New York: New Press.
(8) Morris, Norval and David J. Rothman, eds. 1998. The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society. New York: Oxford University Press.
(9) Sabol, William J. 2007. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2006. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
(10) Schlosser, Eric. 1998. "The Prison Industrial Complex." Atlantic Monthly, December, 51-77.
(11) E.S. Savas, Privatization and Public-Private Partnership (Chatham House Publishers: New York, NY, 2000)
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