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Privatization of Prisons

Free «Privatization of Prisons» Essay Sample

Case for Public Prisons

The primary purpose of correctional facilities such as prisons is to ensure that prisoners are rehabilitated and re-introduced to society. Therefore, the correctional process, procedures, prisoners’ treatment, and rehabilitation program must be available for public scrutiny. The need to retain control over prisons in the purview of the public is primarily based on ensuring that prisoners are treated accordingly as provided for by the law without infringing on their liberties.

In addition, keeping prisons as public institutions will ensure that all due processes are followed when creating them; therefore, no undue concessions will impact on the safety of both the prisoners and institution. The federal government has the capacity to oversee the federal and  state’s justice system including contribution towards implementing change and setting rules or regulations within which the state must apply in future criminal justice proceedings including policies for incarceration, transfer, etc.


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The federal government has a duty to offer support to states through the provision of funds aimed at aiding the state justice system processes and those that have national implications (Federal Judicial Center, n.d.). Evidently, state governments are directly involved in the implementation and application of criminal justice policy, whereas the federal government has a characteristic supervisory mandate. The federal government develops a structure within which state governments formulate and implement their laws according to their respective values. Hence, the governance of prisons is subjected to a systematic process that ensures accountability in the management of public prisons.

Case for Private Prisons

One of the solutions offered to the public for the overcrowding and budget shortfalls of the American prison system is privatization. Through the late 1980s and 90s, 14 private firms were created to run two hundred prison facilities in the US. The largest of them include the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (WCC) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

These two organizations oversee 85,000 inmates (Gaines, 2006). In 1997, the first contract to fully run a prison was awarded to WCC for $88 million to control Taft Correctional Institution, near Taft, California (Gaines, 2006). Privatization offers three main advantages over state run programs. First, private industry can house inmates for 10.5% more than the state (Gaines, 2006). Second, private sector dramatically lowered construction costs, 24% lower than the state (Gaines, 2006). Breaking the cycle is imperative and calls for reformation and changing strategies, but most of all, changing prison leadership culture. Being private business, it is more enabled with flexibility and innovation and should take the lead in breaking this cycle and initiate prison management reformation anew. Private prisons can be characterized as private businesses that are contracted for prison management.

Therefore, performance is quantified in various aspects. Private prisons must abide by the government to determine and set regulations and standards with the aim of meeting prison safety and security standards, hence, saving significant costs in public expenditure. It makes them attempt to perform efficiently and profitably in an ever increasing competitive market. The above figures are clear evidence of poor strategy and performance especially failure against the purpose, which calls for immediate reaction. People should understand that it is their primary duty to analyze and, more importantly, identify the key factors that contribute to this situation (Harlett, 2006). Identifying and recognizing ones’ defects and shortcomings are the first step in approaching total results. Although it might seem impossible, such strategy should be applied in every organization, especially in a privately managed prison, where total quality should become the main focus and practice.

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However, there is a drawback to the privatization of incarceration facilities. While reducing operational and construction costs, there is an impact the safety and comfort of inmates and prison staff. The corporations appear to lack good controls on the guards. Many facilities have had issues with the guards abusing inmates, even in juvenile facilities. Such mistreatment has caused prison riots, so that there was no other choice for the state but to intervene in the problem. According to John DiIulio, the fact that correction involves depriving individuals their liberties is the basis within which legally sanctioned coercion exercises by authorized citizens over others, which should remain in the purview of the public  (Gaines, 2006).

Challenges of Both Public and Private Prisons

The optimal functioning of public and private prisons is dependent on the availability of funds. In fact, not all prisons have access to the same amount of funds. Essentially, for private prisons, financing varies from one state to the other (Featherman, Thornton, & Correnti, 2001). Financing can be obtained in two ways during the construction of a private prison. The private institution assumes that all costs and responsibilities of constructing of a private prison are transferred without the aid of the public, whereas it rents out the completed facilities to the respective jurisdictions under contract.

On the other hand, the private institution can request the respective jurisdiction to issue a financing bond for the development of the prison facilities (Harlett, 2006). Meanwhile, a significant challenge for the development of private prisons is cooperation with respectively elected officials. There are not many publicly elected officials who are willing to authorize the funding of an experimental private facility without raising concerns of accountability, management, and politics.

Public prisons, including federal and state prisons, are funded through statutory provisions, where budgetary allocations are made by the respective governments. These funds are obtained from taxes collected from the public. Essentially, federal prisons are funded through congressional appropriations of federal taxes (Featherman, Thornton, & Correnti, 2001). In some instances, prisoners may be held by another jurisdiction; however, in such cases the jurisdiction being aided to hold the prisoners compensates the holding jurisdiction from their budgetary allotments. Additionally, public prisons can derive funds from prisoners’ participation in industries which, in turn, generates revenues for both the prisoners and the institution.


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