Privatization of Corrections Criminal Justice 300 Professor Fox Larisa Terwilliger One of the nation’s largest challenges in present times concerns the criminal justice system. Overcrowding in today’s prisons has become a daunting problem with no apparent easy solution (Greene, 2008). In the last few decades, the number of adult offenders brought into the court system has nearly doubled. From 1980 to 1995, the collective population of those on probation, parole, and in jail grew as quickly as the population of inmates in prisons (Austin & Coventry, 2001).
In 1995, an excess of 5. 4 million adults were involved in some type of correctional supervision. Today, the United States prison population is continuing to rise. The financial burden placed on prison administrators as well as federal, state, and local jurisdictions because of the institutional confinement of so many inmates is overwhelming and troublesome (Benson,1998). As the number of inmates rises, a corresponding rise in spending by prisons has also taken place.
Adding to the problems involving lack of prison space and adequate funding is the issue of public dissatisfaction with the quality of federal, state, and municipal government correctional services (Greene, 2008). Both policymakers and the public have lost confidence in the penal system because of a lack of rehabilitation of offenders and rising recidivism rates. Over time, the belief has spread that government is simply not capable of meeting the challenges associated with modern institutional confinement issues (Greene, 2008).
In the 1980’s the public’s perceived failure of the prison system to provide additional funding for correctional institutions and to rehabilitate prisoners caused what some policymakers deemed a national crisis (Benson,1998). These failures, added to the already demanding issue of prison overcrowding, meant changes needed to be implemented. To facilitate change, a solution was created with the privatizing of prisons and jails.
Privatization is commonly defined as a contract process that shifts public functions, capital assets, and responsibilities, either in part or in whole, from the public sector to the private sector (Austin & Coventry, 2001). The most widespread form of privatization in corrections is evident in the outsourcing of certain services. This contracting out of services ensues a competition among private bidders who wish to be hired to perform governmental activities within or for the prison. These services include medical, mental health, education, food services, maintenance, security, and administrative services.
When this occurs, the correctional agency continues to act as the financier and is still able to manage policy control regarding the quality and type of the services provided in the particular institution (Greene, 2008). A more extreme approach to privatization occurs when ownership of assets, commercial enterprises, and management responsibilities is transferred from government to the private sector. This transfer is called an “asset sale” and causes the government to have either a limited or non-existent role in functions such as financial support, management, and control over the transferred asset (Austin & Coventry, 2001).
According to Benson (1998), in 1987 there were 3,100 inmates housed in privately operated correctional facilities around the world. By 1998, a span of just eleven years, that number had risen to 132,000 inmates incarcerated in a total of 184 private correctional facilities. Two companies, Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, account for over 75% of the worldwide market of private correctional facilities. There have been a number of arguments made both in support and in opposition to privatized prisons.
Some argue that the public sector is unable to handle the complexity of the ever-changing dynamics associated with corrections, therefore creating the need for the private facilities (Correctionscorp. com). Opponents of privatization contest these ideas with the claim that penalizing offenders for crime is a public matter and should not be part of a private industry. . According to recent research, private facilities have been shown to operate at an equal level of efficiency as public facilities (Greene, 2008).
Most private institutions house more minimum-security inmates compared to public facilities. This is one of the few differences found between public and private sectors. The two types of facilities tend to have the same patterns of staffing, levels of work, education opportunities, and counseling programs for inmates. Both also share close to the same number of serious prisoner misconduct reports. Impact studies have shown many more similar characteristics than differences between the two methods of corrections (Greene, 2008).
One benefit found of private sectors is the modest financial savings achieved. These monetary reductions in staffing patterns, labor-related costs, and fringe benefits have proven moderately successful (Benson, 1998). The increasing number of stories of poor performance in private prisons shows that a private facility can harbor operating deficiencies much like a public prison. Years ago, the public was made aware of major problems at the Corrections Corporations of America’s Northeast Ohio Correction Center in Youngstown, Ohio (Benson, 1998).
This facility was the source of seventeen inmate stabbings, two murders, and six escapees in just the first fifteen months of being opened. Flaws in operations were attributed to inadequate, inexperienced staff and prisoners being housed there that should never have been transferred to the minimum-security prison. Through this and other examples of insufficient operational practices, the private sector has been proven to be just as capable of mishandling operations as the public sector has been criticized for.
It is believed that private facilities are experiencing the same issues that public prisons have faced simply because they both have difficulties recruiting and maintaining adequate and competent staff (Greene, 2008). Despite controversy, privatization has been shown to clearly provide at least one vital improvement to the correctional system as a whole. Since the rise of private prisons, its presence has impacted the existing public sector significantly (Austin & Coventry, 2001).
Although the private sector has fallen short of improving overall prison operations, its arrival forced the public sector to re-analyze how it operates and functions. In this way, privatization can be viewed as a catalyst for positive change in the correctional system by simply demonstrating alternative methods for handling the business that makes up corrections. No evidence was found to show that the existence of private prisons will have a dramatic negative effect on how non-private prisons operate (Austin & Coventry, 2001). References
Austin, J. & Coventry, G. (2001). Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons. National Council on Crime and Delinquency. PDF Benson, B. L. (1998). Crime Control Through Private Enterprise Volume II, Number 3. Winter Edition. PDF Correctionscorp. com Retrieved from: http://www. correctionscorp. com/cca-research-institute/research-findings/independent-studies-prison-privatization/ Greene, J. , (2008). Prison Privatization: Developments in the United States. Retrieved from: http://corrections. oregonafscme. com/private/prison_privatization. htm