Еssay on The Privatization of Prisons in the U.S.

At the present moment most of the U.S. Prisons are operated by the government. On the other hand, there is a growing tendency when private organizations star operating private prisons in order to get profit. “Today, non-governmental enterprises, in the form of publicly traded companies, operate 264 correctional facilities housing almost 99,000 adult offenders. Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Inc, and Cornell Companies”(Schmalleger, & Smykla, 104). This privatization is regulated by the contract with the local governments. There are several ways private prisons are paid. They can be paid per prisoner, per day depending on the type of the contract.

At the present moment 27 national states have private prisons. In these facilities more than 100.000 inmates are housed. Moreover, there are cases when Federal Government turns to the help of private firms in order to run some facilities.

There are definitely positive effects of the new institution. Such effects as healthy competition, cost reduction and better service are named by the proponents of prison privatization. Private facilities are easier to build and operate.

The quality of services provided in these private institutions must be higher than in other correctional facilities. The Reason Public Policy Institute made a number of researches, which prove reduce of recidivism, better discipline and better healthcare programs. As stats Moore, one of the researches of this institute, “When you shave off costly bureaucratic excess and inspire innovation, you will undoubtedly find a better, less-expensive product. Most importantly, with government in the role of neutral monitor, you increase accountability in the system” (Moore).

Originally, the opposition to the privatization was made by local correctional officer unions. These officers became anxious about the consequences of privatization. They predicted the rise of crime rates and lack of control in the sphere of correctional institutions.

The process, which began more than 17 years ago, meets obstacles nowadays. Public sector is reluctant to pass jails to private ownership. Worst conditions created in private prisons is one of the reasons. This problem existed in public prisons and has become even worth after privatization. “Experts say private prisons are more dangerous and offer fewer programs than public prisons. As a result, the most vulnerable incarcerated populations (youth, women, non-citizens) suffer more violence and abuse” (Schmalleger, F., & Smykla, J. 2007). Due to the problems mentioned about the problem of violence in prison also become burning. Survey, performed by the James Austin shows that violence rates are 49% to 65% higher in private prisons. These are essential problems, which make the correctional administration worry. Financial side of the jail privatization also makes a serous problem. In the 2000 year statistic is pointed out that “Average guard turnover of 52%, compared to 16% in public prisons” (Schmalleger, & Smykla, 2007). At the same time the salary and hours of training of the private guards are lower in comparison with public institutions. All these researches prove that private prisons cost equal to or even more than public prisons. Economic necessity is put under the doubt under such conditions. The main idea of created private prisons was their profitability for the state. In the beginning, when this initiative was discussed private prisons promised to find the ways to cut costs. Unfortunately, this is done either by the reducing of quality of prisons or selecting the least costly prisoners. At the present moment there are no evidence that private prisons help to save costs.

The number of private prisons receives subsidies from community budgets. For example, all six private prisons in Mississippi received a subsidy, three of the four prisons in Georgia received a subsidy, and 78% of prison run by CCA (a company with annual revenues of over $300 million) are subsidized (Passantino, 2007) these facts only prove that private prisons are not able to exist on their own profits. They need extra money and subsidies.

Some proponents of prisons privatizations claim that private prisons give more opportunities for saving money.

There is an opinion that private prisons save up to 10-20 percent (Moore, 112). For example Adrean T. Moore, a recognized authority in the field of private corrections, states, “There is a belief in some circles that government inherently does a better job at building and running prisons. However, when you look at the cost savings and innovation that occur in private prisons, as well as the extent of their use, you find that this simply is not the case”(Moore, 112).

All the data received in the result of comparison of public and private correctional institutions is doubtful due to several reasons. Private facilities may be significantly different from the governmental ones in their functions, design, age, and security needs. In addition due to the complexity of the accounting system the taxpayer most probably will not feel the difference in the cost of private and public prisons.

There are some additional problems with the privatization of prisons. The question of motivations becomes burning in this case. In the case when private prisons get profits from holding prisoners, these are some doubts that these institutions will have strong motivation for rehabilitation of ex-prisoners and reducing terms for good behaviour.

In order to operate effectively, the private prisons should show not only cost-effectiveness, but also attempts to reduce recidivism. In addition, state prisons also become the participants of these conflicts, since they are run from the revenues achieved from the taxes.

The legal basement of private correctional institutions also raises some doubts. From the very beginning of prison privatization this question has become the source of loud debates. In reality there are no obstacles for prisons privatization from the side of the constitution on delegation   grounds. Since government has little power to interfere with private contracts and the courts will most probably reluctant to change this. “Only delegated rulemaking and adjudication functions that directly purport to exercise a government power are deemed to require special constitutional due process safeguards and to be subject to heightened judicial scrutiny” (Passantino, 2007). There is no developed scheme which would regulate the way general due processes are applies in the private prisons.

There were a number of attempts to regulate this case with the help of legislation and contracts. The legal position of private prisons is also questionable. Generally, they are treated like “state actors” for civil rights suits. This way the constitutional requirements for private and public facilities are equal. The employees of private prisons do not have any advantages. “Governments cannot shield themselves entirely from liability by means of contracting, but they can lessen their exposure by doing so. In the vast majority of suits brought by prisoners, alleging individual rather than systemic group harms, governments will generally not be deemed to have knowledge of the specific acts and injuries, and will not be held responsible” (Schmalleger, 2007, p. 154). The possibility of bankrupting causes a lot of concerns among state officials. Despite the situation like that did not have place in the past, expect for minor cases of speculations during the building of facilities, the problem can not be neglected. Proper monitoring and careful contracting should be used in order to avoid the threat created by sudden bankruptcy. The use of force, especially deadly force is another serious problem of private prisons. The use of force requires proper enabling legislation. At the present moment, without proper legislation, the use of force is defined by the officials of private prisons. In this case the authorities may face civil and criminal liability for their actions

This is only a part of problems, which arises with private prisons on the field of legislation. These and number of other problems should be resolved for the private prisons to act legally.

Proponents and opponents of prisons privatization give different reasons in order to support their position. It is evident that a private prison is a new practice and there are a lot of problems, which should be resolved for it to work effectively. There has been done too little study in this area and the results are often controversial. This makes it difficult to make right conclusions but since the system of private prisons growth with the flow of time there is a hope that this practice will become common soon.

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