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Issues in Contracting for Probation Services

NCJ Number
J N Raia
Date Published
20 pages
Following a discussion of the general background of public service contracting, issues involved in contracting with private agencies for the provision of probation services are considered.
The practice of private contracting in probation responsibilities has occurred in the areas of intake, investigation, supervision, and pretrial services, with contracting being most prevalent in the latter area. Proponents of private sector contracting argue that the inclusion of private firms into traditionally public sector services leads to an open, competitive marketplace. Others maintain that this is an unrealistic expectation in the corrections area, since regulations concerning receipt of Federal funds often standardize the delivery of services. Proponents of private contracting hold that this allows service providers to avoid civil service requirements and the government hiring of staff that may not be needed full-time. Many probation officials, on the other hand, argue that the hiring of employees under civil service standards ensures the employment of highly qualified persons. The use of contracts may provide public agencies with greater flexibility in devising programs. However, private agencies run the risk of instability, since contracts may not be renewed. A major issue in private contracting is accountability and control. A general consensus of contracting agencies surveyed is that a high level of monitoring is necessary to ensure appropriate and quality performance by private agencies. A significant issue in the decision about whether to contract privately is the capability of the existing probation agency. Where agencies are not equipped to perform certain needed services, private contracting is an option for expanding services. Recommendations for contracting for probation services in New York State are (1) to remain limited to the provision of pretrial services and (2) to incorporate specific monitoring and compliance provisions in contract arrangements. A table lists the number of cities using private firms to supply various municipal services under contract; 3 reference notes and a bibliography of 14 items are provided.


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