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International Growth Trends in Prison Privatization

NCJ Number
Cody Mason
Date Published
August 2013
22 pages
This report analyzes the growth of private prisons internationally.
Research indicates that private prisons perform no better than publicly operated facilities, are not guaranteed to reduce correctional costs, and provide an incentive for increasing correctional and detention populations. Analyses show that at least 11 countries, spread across North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania, are engaged in some level of prison privatization. The United States maintains the highest total number of privately held prisoners. Australia, Scotland, England and Wales, and New Zealand hold a larger proportion of prisoners in private facilities, with a high of 19 percent in Australia; as in the United States. Immigrant detention has been a particular target of privatization in the United Kingdom, which has 73 percent of its immigrant detainees held privately, and Australia, which has a wholly private immigrant detention system. The prison privatization market outside of the United States is dominated by The GEO Group and two British companies, G4S and Serco. Media reports from countries including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have reflected research conducted in the United States showing that private prison companies' profit motives often lead to inadequate services and unsafe conditions. Charts and references