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Prison Privatization Research For Academia

Academic research on the privatization of prisons in the United States shows that there are many pros and cons to privatization. Recently, many people argue that privatization has hurt the criminal justice system and it needs to be abolished. Express what you think in a pro and con paper on the effort of the criminal justice system to privatize prisons.

Recently, the American criminal justice system has been criticized for many aspects of its operation. Consequently, government at every level has attempted to alter the system in order to improve it. This, unfortunately, has resulted in a chain of events that is making the system worse, particularly with regard to prison facilities. One solution that has been attempted is the privatization of prisons. In fact, “for-profit incarceration has grown from a sole 350-bed lockup in 1983 to 90,000 inmates in more than 100 hundred prisons in 1997”. This paper argues that this method of operation with regard to the housing of criminals is inappropriate and ineffective.

Prison Privatization

Prison privatization began when American citizens expressed concerns over high crime rates in the 80's. The following were pointed out as factors that are in the favor of privatizing prisons:

  1. State and federal legislative bodies reacted by enacting new laws outlining minimum punishments that included incarceration.
  2. By increasing the likelihood of punishment, these measures also increased the number of inmates and their length of stay in the prison system. 
  3. As the incarcerated population increased, the prisons swelled to overwhelming numbers. Prisoner rights were affected, and overcrowding resulted.
  4.  Consequently, early release programs were designed, allowing many undesirable convicts to re-enter society and to commit crimes once again. These early release programs were implemented largely to avoid acting on the necessity of building new prisons. 

Unfortunately, the money needed for maintaining and building prisons was not available. 

Thus, society had to search for new solutions. One solution that was regarded as feasible was the privatization of prisons. This refers to private companies or organizations offering facilities and related services required to house prisoners at a cost less than the amount needed for large-scale construction and administration of new governmentally-managed prisons. Consequently, numerous inmates across the country are now housed in “for-profit prisons”.

Benefits of Privatization

Reviewing what has been written about the advantages of privatization of prisons, researchers have noted that the process of privatization was introduced as a means to make the prison system more efficient overall. Privatization is supposed to boost the quality of service provided by introducing prison management into the free market. In this context, service providers must compete for prison contract. This process inevitably drives down the price of service delivery while increasing the level of service that is provided. In this context, the free market adds the element of competition that makes prison management more efficient.

Further examining the benefits that can be garnered from the process of privatization, private organizations can often build and establish prisons more quickly than government organizations. As the number of inmates in prisons continues to grow and overcrowding remains a critical issue for inmate safety, private organizations can help by constructing more prisons in less time. This efficiency reduces the problems of overcrowding and the violence that can erupt in prisons that are substantially overcrowded. Additionally, by reducing overcrowding, private organizations can save money by employing fewer corrections professionals.

In addition to the cost savings that can be realized by implementing private prisons, researchers have also noted that private prisons offer inmates employment opportunities that they may not receive elsewhere. In many privately run prisons organizations put inmates to work for their companies. These inmates are paid minimum wage for their services. However, they are also charged for their room and board. In this situation, the inmate is made responsible for repaying his or her debt to society by working to pay for the costs of his or her incarceration. Prisons that use inmates as employees are reported to have fewer incidences of violence and to be more orderly overall.

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