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Prison Industry

NCJ Number
Randall G. Shelden, M.A., Ph.D.
Date Published
December 2010
25 pages
This paper develops the argument that the privatization of the prison industry works against reform policies designed to increase the cost-effectiveness of corrections by developing community-based supervision and treatment programs that are more effective and less costly than incarceration.
The privatization of prisons under for-profit corporations subjects the building and management of prisons to the paradigm that governs any private business in a capitalist society, i.e., to maximize and increase profits by expanding operations and reducing expenses. When this paradigm is applied to the prison industry, market forces are managed so as to increase the incarceration rate and the number and/or size of prisons while attempting to reduce the cost of maintaining and treating inmates. This pattern is documented with data on prison-building, the operations of the American Correctional Association, telephone services for prisons, and the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose mission is to promote "free markets" and small governments with little power to regulate businesses. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association is also examined regarding its efforts to promote the expanded use of prisons in order to maintain and improve correctional officer employment security and income. 73 references