Privatization of Prisons
The American penal system has seen many reforms since the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Growing incarceration rates has led to the overcrowding of prisons, increases in prison spending, and the need for further reforms. Privatization of the prison industry has been one the ways state and federal governments have sought to reduce costs. There are as many opponents of privatization as there are advocates. Some opponents highlight the lack of transparency that is common in private industries and claim that it will lead to a poorer quality of care. Others call into question the actual legality of states delegating a moral responsibility to rehabilitate citizens to private firms. This and other legal issues should encourage states to also explore other privatization solutions. Contracting out health care and other services may be the most pragmatic of solutions. Cost Comparisons
Imprisoning citizens of a country has understandably been a right reserved by the federal and state governments throughout the millennia. However, a prison that is not run by the government, a privately run prison, is a relatively new concept. The motivations behind the movement to privatize prisons are mainly: reducing costs, and reducing overcrowding. An increase in violence and longer prison sentences have led to a steady growth in prison populations (Carson, 2014). As a result state and local governments have turned to the private sector for a solution to rising costs and overcrowding in the hope that the private sector will be more efficient that the public one. The argument made for private prisons is simply that private managers will be more effective than public managers. A number of different studies were conducted to evaluate costs of private facilities versus public ones. A study done by the National Institute of Corrections at the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee found that although the privatization did streamline purchasing and personnel procedures, the added costs of overhead and insurance balanced out the savings and no significant savings were had (James Austin, 2001). In stark contrast, the Sellers study compared three private facilities and three public facilities and found that although the private facilities offered more programs, they still operated at a cost that was lower by $30 per inmate per day than public facilities (Sellers, 1989). The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission Study found that the price of operating private prisons would be 10 percent lower than public ones with an additional benefit of collecting taxes on the profits of private prisons. At this point it is unclear whether private prison save money or not. One point to keep in mind is that while some reports show that there is little or no difference in operating costs of a private versus a publicly run facility, no reports show that it is definitely more cost effective to operate a government-run facility. Should private companies be able to improve on the quality of government-run programs there seems to be little downside in promoting private run facilities. Unfortunately, Quality of Care Comparisons
One major area of concern voiced by opponents of privatization is that individuals whose are motivated by profit may decide to increase revenue by decreasing quality of service at the expense of the inmates (Thomas, 1993) (Durham, 1993). The Silverdale Study analyzed the quality of life at the Silverdale Detention Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a public facility that was taken over by the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison contractor in America. In comparison to other facilities in which they spent time, inmates generally rated Silverdale highly on upkeep and cleanliness, staff competence and fairness, procedural processing, religious services, counseling, and visitation. Ratings on safety, security, medical care, food and...
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