Privatization of American Prisons the essay

  • Length: 17 pages
  • Sources: 30
  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: essay
  • Paper: #64864802

Excerpt from essay :

This gave the immediate need to contract the prison facilities.

Literature review

Extant literature has been dedicated to the topic of privatization of the rather publicly run correctional facilities in America. These literatures have been mixed and contain mixed views of proponent for privatization and its opponents alike. The literatures therefore have expressed favors of the system as well as critical of it. There also exists another category expressing pure criticism. The critical articles include the ones a large number of authors (Dixon et al.,1996; Puxty,1997; Broadbent et al.,1996; Shaoul,1997; English,2003; and Dillard and Ruchala,2005).The studies that are focused solely in the criticism of the system are also numerous (Cooper and Williams, 2005 and Andrew and Cahill, 2009). The initial group of literature has an argument having a multi-thronged perspective. In fact the perspectives of the prior literature can be grouped into three distinct perspectives: The initial perspective is concentrated on the fact that a great lack of accountability thrives in the various privately-managed prisons. This perspective holds a view that the inmates in such as system would be in a more worse off situation as compared to the ones held in publicly-run prisons. The second perspective is based on the theory that privatization is by principle derived neoliberalism, a philosophy which has become very persuasive in our contemporary society. This philosophy must be resisted t all costs in order for democracy to prevail. The third perspective attempt to explain the process of privatization in the form of a class warfare involving a sharp conflict between the interests of the public and that of the private world. The first and the second perspectives have been extensively been discussed while the third one has not been extensively discussed.

The initial perspective that postulates that there is a lack of accountability in the privately run prison systems and that the conditions of the inmates is most likely to worsen off a s compared to when they are in a public run system is still subject to further investigation via empirical and evidential analysis. In this perspective, the existing evidence has been mixed and thus making it apparent that indeed there exist a general lack of accountability in the privately managed correctional facilities. This fact has led to the termination of various contractual agreements between the government and the private operators as pointed out by VAGO (1999).

In regard to the second perspective, that is based on the argument that the process of privatization is a derivative of neoliberalism, a lot of criticism has been generated over an extended period of time in regard to the process of privatization of various governmental services and functions general (Puxty, 1997 and Andrew, 2009).The criticisms are all based on the single viewpoint that states that profit-making as well as the provision of various governmental services are extremely incompatible and therefore government ownership coupled with its management is regarded as the most effective and efficient method in the provision of all public services. Further, there is still a large piece of literature dedicated to the perspective that challenges the concept of privatization of government services with an argument that the government inspectors together with the auditors are never objective and that they employ extremely flawed evaluation methodologies as pointed out by (Andrew and Cahill, 2009)


Considering the rising cost of corrections to the government, high crime rate brought about by the big gap between the rich and the poor, and population explosion in prisons, one solutions that seems attractive in the eyes of the policy makers and which constantly beckons to them is the privatization of prisons and correction centers by the government. Those who advocate for privatization claim that the private enterprises can deliver the needed services and goods that were originally offered by the public corporations at a cheaper cost with speed and efficiency. They often cite successful sectors like health, motor vehicle industry, garbage collection and road maintenance as good examples (Carrol, Conant, and Easton, 1987 Robbins, 1995)

Even though most of adult correctional facilities begun in the mid -- 1980s, the use of privatization to correct and rehabilitate offenders is not new to America as early as 1820s, the first juvenile institution, was established in New York. It was private in its operation and funding. As a result of this first initiative which was successful, Many private and community based initiative sprung up as a result of Law Enforcement Assistance administration's grants during the 1970s (Durham, 1989; Rogers and Mays, 1987).

While these initial correctional facilities were operating, offering services such as medical care, educational programs, and food preparation in 38 states within the United States, was until mid 1980s profit making firms sprung up to offer services to run the entire prison. (Camp and Camp, 1984). In addition, one state called Tennessee, in the mid 1980s considered delegating the whole prison correctional system to the hands of the private sector (Tennessee Fiscal Review Committee 1995) and by the early 1990s, privately managed prisons expanded greatly. A recent study puts it at over 120 prisons in 28 states that were in charge of about 120,000 offenders ( Moore, 1998 )

The decision of the government to privatize not only depends on the cost and efficiency considerations, but also on the security, Political and budgetary considerations. According to (Cozzeto, Kweit, and Kweit, 1995), the government annually allocates 80% of the budget to State revenue, University education, and schools, social institutions, profit tax credits medical aid and state Prisons. These decisions are highly political are often highly debated over again and again by the legislature whereupon in times of financial insufficiency privatization often becomes an easier option for federal government this is according to Hakim and Blackstone ( 1996).

The cost of incarceration of offenders in the United States has almost doubled in the last five years, demanding close to $50 billion per annum, this translate to about $33, 334 per inmate, yearly. According to this trend, 800-bed capacity jail and another 1,500-bed capacity prison are needed weekly to meet the demand for confining offenders. This would translate to an annual expenditure of about $6 billion. Where this kind of funding comes from is left for the taxpayer to ponder. Dilulio (1986) found out that the American public suggested that the prisoners should be made to work to raise money for their sustenance without rendering the citizens jobless. The research also indicates that more correctional centers should be open without increasing taxes. This leaves state and local officials with no other option but to adapt the privatization as the only available option to be used in corrections (Hutto, 1990). The other alternative is to use the public funds to erect new prisons (Donahue, 1988).

Privatization of federal and state correctional centers, however, highly volatile and controversial as to what functions the should be offered by the prisons departments and whether they should be institutions of saving money or offering correctional facilities and security of the citizens by confining and rehabilitation offenders. There seems to be no consensus on the issue of functions (Dilulio, 1986). Again, the disagreement is not purely pertaining to finances but the questions regarding the responsibility of the state to offer or delegate correctional facility comes into discussion. It is argued that the private sector should not influence public policies in such a sensitive issue as prison services (Mullen, Chabotar, and Carrow, 1985).

The United States state of Arizona gave a living interesting instance of how politics can influence privatization issue. The political issues emerged from prison privatization when the state of Arizona wanted to open a private prison in Mexico, they had to obtain a treaty between the U.S. government and the Mexican government. Their intention was to establish a prison in Mexico that would house about 2,370 prisoners that was approximated to cost Arizona about $4o million in 1999 alone ( Brooks,1997)

While some critics fault the private prison operations, majority of the opponents prefer privatized construction of prison facilities to their operations. They have been approved to be efficient in their design, innovative meaning that public sector work does not compare to private sector (Brakel, 1992: 258).

It is consensus that the private firms can work faster than without bureaucracy that is witnessed in the gvernment contracts, perform quality work and still make a profit since their enterprises are not restricted by procedures. ( Ammons, Campbell. And Sammoza, 1992; Brakel, 1992; Schichor, 1995). For instance the construction of in a public prison is often preceded by bonds issue to obtain finances while private does needs less time to put finances into place, and not limited by the public's decision. On the other hand, public financing has to be decided upon by the legislatures who have to make state budgetary decisions on whether to increase funding on incarceration or of funding of education or other social services.

In order to reduce controversies surrounding…

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