prison privatization policy

Topics: Prison, Criminal justice, Penology Pages: 12 (2129 words) Published: September 23, 2014



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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