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What's Wrong With Private Prisons

NCJ Number
Public Interest Issue: 92 Dated: (Summer 1988) Pages: 66-83
J J DiIulio
Date Published
18 pages
Improving the management of existing prisons with the human and financial resources available in the public sector is a more promising corrections alternative than privatizing corrections.
Privatizing efforts have resulted partly from perceptions that public correctional managers have failed, but some of the publicly operated prisons are impressively managed. Other sources of the privatization movement have been the belief that public correctional institutions are too crowded and that private corrections are cheaper. However, the crowding problem is less acute than commonly believed, and the public sector has made innovations that save money. In addition, the problems of crowding, rising costs, and failed management are the most evident in the area of high-security prisons and jails, for which privatization offers no help. Moreover, privatization raises many political and administrative issues, as well as the moral issue of whether it is appropriate to delegate the authority to administer criminal justice to nonpublic individuals and groups. Approaching prisons and jails as a public trust to be administered on behalf of the community and in the name of civility and justice is more likely to improve corrections management than is viewing them as private enterprises to be administered in the pursuit of profit. 10 footnotes.