Privatization of American Prisons Thesis

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Privatization of American Prisons

The history of Prison privatization as well as its merits and demerits


The Policy Recommendations and ability to adapt to Changes

The origin of Private prisons and why they were developed

Comparison and analysis of cost, efficiency, value and flexibility of private prisons vs. state and federal run facilities

In this paper, we present a discussion on the issue of the privatization of American prisons. We look at the current state of the prisons, the prevalence as well as the conflicts which they face. We then examine into detail the various problems which they face as well as the dominant issues. A presentation of the policy issues that should be adopted is also presented. A brief history of prisons and the reason for their establishment is also given. A comparison and analysis of cost, efficiency, value as and flexibility is also discussed. A comparison between the private prisons and the public ones is carried out. A third party policy recommendation is also presented.


The concept of privatizing prisons is one that has attracted a lot of debate and issues alike. It is paramount that before we proceed with the discussion of privatization of American prisons, we fathom the exact definition of privatization of prisons. Private prisons can be best described in terms of a variety of manners such as:

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A transfer involving public facilities to an organization which is deemed private or a contract given to organization in order to design as well as operate a new prison

A contract given in order to provide certain services to a public prison. These services may include transportation, food, medicate and maintenance.

TOPIC: Thesis on Privatization of American Prisons Assignment

It is important to highlight a certain misconception that usually rocks the concept of prison privatization such as the fact that they are never tied to the government. The reality however, is that the private prisons do enter into a contract with a specific government agency in order to house the inmates. The government on the other hand does its role in the regulation of the private prisons. It therefore becomes necessary to note that the difference that exists between the government and the private prisons is actually minute (Dolovich, 2005). The main distinction that exists between the private prisons and the public prisons is that in the private ones, an organization is in charge of the management and operation of the prison as opposed to the government. The relationship that exists can best be described as blurred and involves the act of outsourcing of thousands of prisoners by the government to the private prisons annually. The government is also involved via contracts in the extension of its tentacles of power in the placing of stringent limitations as well as regulations on the organizations in charge of the private prisons as pointed out by Mulone (2008).

The history of Prison privatization as well as its merits and demerits

The concept of privatizing prisons can never be considered as a new entrant in the management of inmates in the global correctional arena. Certain element of public prisons such as food services, transportation, security, maintenance and staff training have all been awarded to private organization. These suppliers in the private sectors are usually for profit and not for profit organizations. A big part of prison privatization in the past involved the contractual delegation of certain specific services of professional nature to private firms. However, the latest trend in prison privatization involves the turning over of the entire prison facility to the hands of the private firms. In America, most of the juvenile correctional facilities are privatized through specific community programs from the time of deinstitutionalization during the 1970s.The Okeechobee Juvenile Training Facility was however contacted later on (1982) to a certain nonprofit subsidiary of a major Unites States drug manufacturer called the Eckerd Foundation as pointed out by U.S. NIJ (1985,p.7).

In America, the very first federal agency to successfully enter into a contract involving the private facilities was in 1984 by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (U.S. NIJ, 1985). The other federal agencies that currently contract are the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service. The very first local level prison privatization contract was awarded in Tennessee in 1984. The pioneering as private state prison was however opened in 1986 at Kentucky (Ring, 1987). The period between 1986 to 1995 marked a 10-year growth in the very capacity of the private secure adult correctional facilities. There was a 2,400% increase. This figure was however non-representative since it only reflected the result of more than two percent of the prisoners who were housed in private facilities in the United States (Thomas, 1996).

The perceived benefits of privatization are usually stated in the economic perspective or rather domain. This is because the private firms are considered to be more effective and efficient while being less expensive. They are also noted to be more flexible while having fewer limitations amidst high level of service quality. However, there are certain drawbacks that exist with the issue of prison privatization. These can be effectively expressed in economic terms. The first one is that the profits to be gained is a mere incentive to the delivered of low quality service so as to lead to profit maximization. The private firms also do face the payment of additional tax liability coupled with government controlled insurance.

There are certain drawbacks that can best be described as being less tangible;

The state for example loses a considerable amount of power as well as quality. This can lead to the operation of the private firms being more volatile due to the fact that the markets dynamics are resulting in disclosures and bankruptcy. The private firms are usually less accountable as well as less accountable due to the fact that their engagement in extra service are liable to the payment of additional payment coupled with the initiation of totally new negotiations. The implications of this are negative as there are possible cases of employment interruption as well as a loss in the level of experience. The other distinction that can be drawn is related to the fact that with time, the operation so the private prisons would be scrutinized and that competition is therefore a mere fact that results inevitably to change. History however indicates that the private correctional facility records are relatively few by virtue of possessing a shorter time in its existence. The fact that there are issues regarding quality while the public prison systems have been marred with quality and accountability problems has meant that court intervention is the only way of coming up with better and improved conditions of incarceration.

The statement of the problem

The current manner in which corrections of offenders is being handled has generated a heated debate in the recent few decades where most critics argue that the matter pertaining to penal corrections is a serious and sensitive matter that cannot be entrusted to the private sector since it should be a responsibility of the state to do so while the proponents doubt the ability of the public sector to meet the challenges in the prisons in the 21st century. Even though the private sector has been involved in the corrections of offenders in the history of America, it has not been given a good percentage of the public prisons to run as only less than 5% of the prisons are run by the sector to penalize offenders. This study seeks to review the genesis of privatization of prisons and also to present several reviews on the research on this issue, to compare and contrast some of the research findings from the Census of the state and federal correctional facilities, which was conducted in 1995 to that of the National survey of State Prison Privatization 1997

And the cost, efficiency, value, and flexibility of state prisons compared to the federal facilities.

It is noted that although the private prisons are only entrusted with the custody of minimum security offenders, this report indicates that the private sector prisons are run much in a satisfying way as the public prisons even though they try to cut costs by employing moderate staff, cut costs on fringe benefits of the prison warders and few other labor costs, it was found out that this cost cutting mission will not affect the way they are expected to run their facilities.

As human population grows large the criminal justice system is overburdened by the need to have more offenders in custody. This not only burdens the government faculties, but also the tax payer. This growing in the number of offenders in the American prisons has catalyzed the need to privatize the correctional facilities otherwise called prisons since the population of the adult offenders has more than doubled in the time between 1980 and 1995.

In 1995 alone, more than 5.5 million adults who translate to 1 in every 50, were under some form of correctional monitoring. This caused the rise in need… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Privatization of American Prisons.  (2010, November 26).  Retrieved September 26, 2021, from

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"Privatization of American Prisons."  26 November 2010.  Web.  26 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Privatization of American Prisons."  November 26, 2010.  Accessed September 26, 2021.