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Privatization of Prisons in the US

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1911 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 Private prisons have become fundamental around the world. The privatization of prisons has been viewed as parting from the norm of public imprisonment. Private prison has been seen to have many advantages and disadvantages. They provide benefits while also providing some human risks. Private prisons have to meet State and community standards for their systems to work and for their accountability to be imperative. These prisons and their improvement of the entire prison system, only if they are properly run and again, held liable by the public.

 While there are many statistics on private prisons, they do have roughly about 5% of sentenced adults in the United States alone. Further research show that the private sectors have a better recidivism rate, better staff training, benefits equaling those of public prisons, and lower cost of operations.

  1. Introduction:

 There are over 1 million people in prisons, and the United States having the highest incarceration rate of any nation. While many are known to be public prisons ran by the government, not many are aware that there are private prisons being owned by companies or business completely liable for inmates. Many believe that private prisons are better economically. But while that may be true, research shows that because they are not ran by the government, inmates are treated inhumanly. While private companies can run prisons for both the government and states. The number are always increasing throughout the years. Between 1999 and 2010 alone, the prison population grew 80% alone. (Journalist’s Resource)

 Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show that in 2013 there were approximately 133,000 state and federal prisoners housed in privately owned prisons in the U.S, meaning that 8.4% of the overall U.S. prison population were being housed in a private prison. The private prison “business” is said to revenue over $5 million U.S. dollars. According to research it is estimated that there are 184 privately operated facilities which hold 132,346 inmates.

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 Very few studies have been done regarding the importance and impact that the organization of private prisons has. Management problems have always occurred with private prisons can be because of staff overseen by the agencies, and the fact that many do not fit with the capacity of being able to handle such inmates. There are many rational advantages and disadvantages when it comes to private prisons.

 Because private prisons are owned by third parties contracted by a government agency, private prisons typically enter into agreements with the government that make prisoners pay a monthly rate. While private prisons are controversial, they come with many advantages and disadvantages.

 Moreover, because private prisons operate on specific contracts most communities are responsible for the facilities although not the prison. If that occurs, a community can be stuck with a facility that cannot be used, no jobs, and all because they prison is not obligaged to be there. Employees also face much more violent conduct in private prisons from inmates. Because many are under-staff inmates tend to take advantage and act violent. A research showed that they operate on a 1 officer for every 120-prisoner ratio. As a way to save money, they rely on self-governed inmates.

II. Literature Review:

III. Rational Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Prisons

 In the United States, the key benefit of private prisons is that it allows market forces to take over the expenses that we, taxpayers, have to pay to maintain said prisons running. Companies can negotiate for lower rates for items they may need and to save money in many other ways. For this benefit to work, the prison has to be making a profit and must be responsibly manages, with staffing at all times.

  1. Advantages of Private Prisons

There are many advantages and disadvantages for the privatization of prisons. Starting with the profit prisons can create. There are many jobs that are available in these prisons, and they are required to be supported. Even transportation must come with consumable goods. Moreover, the private prisons economy can impact more than 80 billion U.S. dollars a year alone.

 Another advantage is that they can lower prison population levels. Because other prisons are publicly operated, prisoners are outnumbering the actual prison. Meaning there are more prisoners than the facility can hold, almost every prison is above the 100% capacity. Research has been found that in California alone, they operate at 130% capacity.

 Furthermore, prisoners from private prisons may reoffend but at a lower rate. In class I learned that an offender may offend again and that it is 80% likely. Inmate form prison that are privately owned can reoffend only 20% likely. Given that private prison inmate has access to more resources they can spend less time in prison.

 While some say the next point as disadvantage because some may feel that everything must come through the government first, because this is a third-party administration, things may be handled almost all the time directly and immediately. The process of change in public prisons, if not posing immediate danger, can last in some instance’s years. Because of the policy and procedure, again, things can be handled immediately in private prisons.

 Another important advantage of private prisons is that they staff entry level law enforcement opportunities. Although there are not many requirements to become a police officer, it is still at times difficult to find work in the field with a criminal justice degree. Unfortunately, because companies do not outweigh the risks in this specific category, they do hire many unexperienced personnel that cause flaws in working in the prisons.

  1. Disadvantages of Private Prisons

Many find conflict in the privatization of prisons. Unfortunately, these tend to reflect on the how effective they are.

Firstly, private prisons can pick and choose whom they take. Prisons that are public are more expensive because they are forced to take all prisoners, even those with high security risks. Unfortunately, private prisons, can choose prisoners that fit their budget needs. They can run at lower costs compared to public prisons and can even replace those that become a high risk to the facility.

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Moreover, from the employee perspective, they get paid less then working at a public prison ran by the government. When comparing private and public prisons, an average employee at a public prison can get paid $36, and an employee at a private prison can get paid up to $14 an hour. Leaving health benefits, pensions, good leave benefits, etc., up to question.

Furthermore, when dealing with the cost of private prisons there are pros and cons. Many researchers believe that it actually cost more for the upkeep of an inmate at a private prison then a public prison. According to the New York Times, inmates in private prisons may cost up to $1,600 per person, per year, comparing that to an inmate in a public prison.

Private prisons tend to have limitations in opportutnities in training. Meaning, that administrative and correction officers’ team, have very little training when working in the prison. Fewer training hours are required, creating a higher risk for both employees and inmates. Researchers strongly that because of this, it creates more space for bribery and corruption. For example, in 2008, the “Kids for Cash” corruption scandal. Those involved and later charged, were alleged to have received millions of dollars in payments for the completion of a binding agreement between the court and the private facilities, Robert Powell.

IV. Assess of the future

 The purpose of private prisons is to make money for a corporation and its shareholders, and to share taxpayer’s money in the incarceration of prisoners and detainees. (Quora) The quality of these prisons is what some believe to only be for profit, being called “for profit-prisons”.

 If the future of private prisons is to be better, the training of officers, cost, rehabilitation when going back into the work place, inmate violence, better benefits and pay for officers, needs to change. If there is one aspect of prison privatization that needs more research, it is in the area of privatization and prison employees.

VI. Conclusion

 The United States has the biggest population on private prisons. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people incarcerated in private prison facilities increased 47 percent while the overall prison population increased 9 percent. The private prison population reached a peak of 137,220 in 2012; it then declined to 126,272 in 2015, before rising again in 2016 to 128,063. (Sentencing Project)

 While both state and federal governments have increasingly relied on privatization since 2000, the federal prison system’s on privatization grows more dramatically. For example, in 2002, the immigration detention system in private prisons went from 5,00 to over 26,000. Prison privatization has prospered because of claims that for-profit facilities are more cost efficient at providing services than public institutions.

 Private prison companies are being challenged in reducing costs and offering services necessary to maintain safety in prisons while also receiving profit for shareholders. The primary approach to controlling spending is by maintaining lower levels of staff benefits and salary than publicly-run facilities. Labor costs normally account for 60 to 70 percent of annual operating budgets. Such savings, though, risk compromising safety and security within prisons. (Sentencing Project)


  1. Camp, S. D., & Gaes, G. G. (2002). GROWTH AND QUALITY OF U.S. PRIVATE PRISONS: EVIDENCE FROM A NATIONAL SURVEY*. Criminology & Public Policy, 1(3), 427-449. Retrieved from https://draweb.njcu.edu/login?url=https://draweb.njcu.edu:2085/docview/200107621?accountid=12793
  2. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/capitalizing-on-mass-incarceration-u-s-growth-in-private-prisons/#II.%20Trends%20in%20Privatization
  3. https://www.privateprisonnews.org/media/publications/gaes_current_status_american_prison_privatization_research_1-2010.pdf
  4. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/181249.pdf


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