Introduction2. TheoreticalFramework2.1 GeneralBackgroundIn the United States there are more people imprisoned thanin any other nation. This became a fact because of various reasons, however,the number one driver of mass incarceration were laws adopted by US in its “waron drugs”. Mandatory minimum sentencinglaws which takes away the ability of judges to exercise discretion orimpose a more lenient punishment based on circumstances of the case.
Truth in sentencing laws which reduceprobation and parole eligibility, in turn requiring people to stay locked-uplong after their rehabilitation. Threestrikes laws which help sentence people convicted to three crimes to extremelylong sentences. These laws fueled the rapid increase of inmates and imposedserious budgetary threats for the government of US states. Thus, the concept ofprison privatization emerged, which involves a business contracting with thegovernment to manage a prison facility. This solution was first implemented in1984 in Tennessee and Florida. (Anderson, 2000) In 1980sthe size of the facilities went up from the experimental of 80 beds to 500 and600 beds. In 2015 there were 126,272 people incarcerated in private prisonswhich represented 8% of the population.
There is a lot of controversy surroundingthe topic. The advocates say that privatization leads to competition thus thegovernment can choose between different contractors in order to choose thequality and quantity of services required. The supporters also state that abusiness entity is more cost-effective, provides higher quality of confinementand better rehabilitation programs. The following chapter is going to address theseclaims.2.
2 DiscussionIt is imperative to assess the truthfulness of the claimsmade by CCA and GEO two of the biggest private prison contractors. Their claimsfeed mass incarceration by making privatization appear to be an attractivealternative to reducing prison populations. But the evidence for such benefitsis mixed at best. Not only may privatization fail to save taxpayer money, butprivate prison companies, as for-profit institutions, are strongly incentivizedto cut corners and thereby maximize profits, which may come at the expense ofpublic safety and the well-being of prisoners.Supposed costsavingsPrivate prison companies assert that privatization savesmoney, or is otherwise cost-effective. GEO, for example, claims on its website toprovide “20% to 30% cost savings” in facility development, and “10% to 20% costsavings” in facility management.
Research found that at first glance privately managedprisons appeared to be more cost-effective saving on average US$2.45 per prisonereach day. However, the authors also found that the predictors of cost were: ageof the physical facility, security level and number of inmates served. Takingthis in consideration the authors state that the type of management (private orpublic) didn’t have a significant impact on cost-effectivness. (Pratt , 1999).
Even though, privately managed prisons had a cost advantage itwas on average only 2.2% in comparison to their public counterparts. (Lundahl et al, 2007).Scant economicbenefit for local communitiesAside from supposed cost benefits, the leading for-profitprivate prison companies assert that private prisons help local communities.For example the GEO group website states that “Every one of GEO’s approximately one hundredfacilities has a unique active role in giving back to their community and theiremployees.”The view that prisons substantially promote economicdevelopment is highly questionable. According to certain studies, new prisonsappear to bring few, if any, economic benefits.
A 2010 study by researchers atWashington State University and Ohio State University examined data on “allexisting and new prisons in the United States since 1960,” reporting findingsthat “cast doubt on claims that prison building is worth the investment forstruggling rural communities.” (Gregory Hooks et al, 2010). Furthermore,private prisons can impose costs on local communities by obtaining subsidies,enjoying property tax exemptions, and receiving municipal services (such aswater and sewer services) that cost taxpayer money. In 2001, a report by oneadvocacy group stated that nearly three quarters of large private prisonsreceived development subsidies from the government.
(Price, B. E., & Schwester,2010)Limited incentivesto curb recidivism and prison violenceLeading private prison companies assert that for-profitfacilities protect the safety of prisoners.
CCA states on its website “We have the scale and experience to solve the touchchallenges facing government at all levels, while providing the kind oflife-changing reentry programming that is proven to reduce recidivism andenhance public safety.”Several studies suggest that inmates in privatefacilities may face greater danger to safety than those in federal prisons. Onestudy concluded that “the private sector is a more dangerous place to be incarcerated,”and reported, based upon an analysis of national data, that “the private sectorexperienced more than twice the number of assaults against inmates than did thepublic sector.” 2.3 Hypothesis3.