Privatization of Adult Correctional Facilities

Privatization of Adult Correctional Facilities. One of the more important administrative issues in corrections today is the privatization of prisons.  Privatization can involve merely the outsourcing of a critical service such as canteen or food service to the design, construction, and operation of an entire facility.  In some cases, contracts are written for a jurisdiction to have a private company operate one of the state facilities.  In other cases, the jurisdiction  may have limited bed space and subsequently “farm” the inmates out to facilities in or out of their jurisdiction that are owned by private companies.  There are also examples of  facilities that are owned by other governmental agencies, that  may have a contract and they in turn are operated by a private company.  One thing is certain: whenever the issues of privatization surfaces, a plethora of stakeholders get involved in the policy and decision making arena.  Inevitably, budget and ethics issues are central to the key discussions and the media is used to play upon the fears and sympathy of the public to shape the final policy decision.  Consequently, almost everyone has a position on this topic, but it is rarely rooted in fact and research.  It is more generally a subjective reaction to the positions posted by the stakeholders.  Most often, the correctional administrator is the lightening rod for this process so it is a very important administrative issue. 

Privatization of Adult Correctional Facilities

Privatization in prisons is not a new concept and enjoys a very checkered past.  Although there is disagreement as to exactly when the modern era of prison privatization began, there are a number of mileposts in its development that signal a change in the face of corrections theory, management and practice.  In short, the development of private prisons was incremental.  The modern nascent concept of privatized corrections can perhaps be identified as early as the 1960’s, when the Bureau of Prisons began to contract for pre-release centers and half-way houses.  Begin your research at that point and do not include the wide variety of forms when colonists first arrived in what was then the New World, when felons were transported here from Europe and sold into servitude as a condition of their pardon.  One could go even farther back into the private jails of England and medieval Europe (gaols), perhaps even to charging inmates for their food and lodging prior to 1066.  In the United States, privatization actually flourished during the industrial revolution and was largely discontinued by the depression, when economic conditions rendered this model outdated and unsupportable.  There was also tremendous public pressure resulting from labor union opposition, inmate abuse scandals, etc.  Five prisons did operate in the U.S. state systems between 1850 and 1950 but they were also phased out completely as a result of public reaction to inmate abuse.  Despite past abuses and failures, privatization once more established a foothold in criminal justice, though it took a number of years to progress to the operation of actual prisons.  This development begins in 1960 and is one essay that may discuss juvenile, detention (jail) as well as prison privatization efforts.  Document the development of the privatization effort from that point to the current status in adult corrections.

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