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Weighing the Watchman: Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Outsourcing Correctional Services, Part I: Employing a Best-value Approach to Procurement

NCJ Number
Geoffrey E. Segal; Adrian T. Moore
Date Published
This report analyzes the costs and benefits of privatizing correctional services.
Due to swelling prison populations and fiscal constraints, correctional authorities have turned to the private sector for the construction, financing, and operation of prisons. There are several factors that justify privatizing correctional services, including improved quality, improved capacity management, improved accountability and risk management, innovation, access to expertise and new services, and improved efficiency and flexibility. One of the most important benefits of privatizing correctional services is that it reduces governmental costs. Nearly all of the 28 studies reviewed in this report found that private prison costs were between 5 to 15 percent lower than public prison costs. However, the opponents to privatizing correctional services argue that quality and security are sacrificed in order to save money. Yet many studies have shown that private prisons offer at least the level of security and quality of services that government-run correctional facilities offer. The key to the successful privatization of correctional services is to clearly identify goals and expectations. The report notes that the effect of privatization is competition, which reduces costs and improves quality, security, and services. 60 Endnotes