1. development, and “10% to 20% cost savings”

1.    Introduction

2.    Theoretical

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2.1  General

Prison privatization came to life as a solution for the
increasing number of inmates in the 1980’s which was lying heavily on state

2.2  Discussion

It is imperative to assess the truthfulness of the claims
made by CCA and GEO two of the biggest private prison contractors. Their claims
feed mass incarceration by making privatization appear to be an attractive
alternative to reducing prison populations. But the evidence for such benefits
is mixed at best. Not only may privatization fail to save taxpayer money, but
private prison companies, as for-profit institutions, are strongly incentivized
to cut corners and thereby maximize profits, which may come at the expense of
public safety and the well-being of prisoners.

Supposed cost

Private prison companies assert that privatization saves
money, or is otherwise cost-effective. GEO, for example, claims on its website to
provide “20% to 30% cost savings” in facility development, and “10% to 20% cost
savings” in facility management.

Research found that at first glance privately managed
prisons appeared to be more cost-effective saving on average US$2.45 per prisoner
each day. However, the authors also found that the predictors of cost were: age
of the physical facility, security level and number of inmates served. Taking
this in consideration the authors state that the type of management (private or
public) didn’t have a significant impact on cost-effectivness. (Pratt &
Maahs, 1999). Even though, privately managed prisons had a cost advantage it
was on average only 2.2% in comparison to their public counterparts. (Lundahl et al, 2007).

Scant economic
benefit for local communities

Aside from supposed cost benefits, the leading for-profit
private prison companies assert that private prisons help local communities.
For example the GEO group website states that  “Every one of GEO’s approximately one hundred
facilities has a unique active role in giving back to their community and their

The view that prisons substantially promote economic
development is highly questionable. According to certain studies, new prisons
appear to bring few, if any, economic benefits. A 2010 study by researchers at
Washington State University and Ohio State University examined data on “all
existing and new prisons in the United States since 1960,” reporting findings
that “cast doubt on claims that prison building is worth the investment for struggling
rural communities.” (Gregory Hooks et al, 2010). Furthermore,
private prisons can impose costs on local communities by obtaining subsidies,
enjoying property tax exemptions, and receiving municipal services (such as
water and sewer services) that cost taxpayer money. In 2001, a report by one
advocacy group stated that nearly three quarters of large private prisons
received development subsidies from the government.(Price, B. E., &
Schwester, 2010)

incentives to curb recidivism and prison violence

Leading private prison companies assert that for-profit
facilities protect the safety of prisoners. CCA states on its website “We have the scale and experience to solve the touch
challenges facing government at all levels, while providing the kind of
life-changing reentry programming that is proven to reduce recidivism and
enhance public safety.”

As detailed below, for profit prisons may be associated
with elevated levels violence which may be cause by the perverse incentives to
maximize profits and cut corners even at the expense of safety and adequate
conditions for inmates.

Several studies suggest that inmates in private facilities
may face greater danger to safety than those in federal prisons. One study
concluded that “the private sector is a more dangerous place to be
incarcerated,” and reported, based upon an analysis of national data, that “the
private sector experienced more than twice the number of assaults against
inmates than did the public sector.” (Blakely & Bumphus, 2004). The United
States Department of Justice had found similar results in their study and
reported that the privately operated facilities have a much higher rate of
assaults between inmates and between inmates and staff than publicly operated
facilities, when institutions of similar security levels are compared (Austin
& Conventry, 2001).

Another Department of Justice study compared a private
prison, Taft Correctional Institution (TCI) with certain other prisons operated
by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), reporting lower levels of violent
misconduct among inmates at the private prison, however, the study also
emphasized that private prisons contribute to a higher probability that inmates
would be involved in overall misconduct than any of the prisons to which it was
compared (Lappin et al., 2005). The study also stated that TCI consistently
demonstrated lower levels of performance on measures like inmate misconduct and
illegal drug use. This relationship remains true when TCI is compared to the
three BOP comparison prisons as well as when compared to over BOP prisons. TCI
experienced two escapes and a large scale disturbance in which at least 1000
inmates refused to return to their cells, these incidents endangered both
public and the institution safety.

Flawed incentives and private
prison violence

in private prisons may reflect the financial incentives to minimize costs and
maximize profits. According to one scholar private prison companies have a much
higher incentive to save costs in the detriment to the public but for their own
profit (Shichor, 1995). In particular a lower-pay to workers results in a
higher rate of staff turnover. In private prisons workers are paid generally
less, moreover, an interesting fact to note is higher separation rates for
correctional officers. 179 Similarly, according to another study, private
prisons, as compared to public facilities, pay correctional officers less and face
a higher rate of staff turnover.180

kind of savings can potentially create grave risks for the security of the
institution and its staff, as pay and turnover may “contribute to the higher
levels of violence seen in the private sector.” 181 To be more specific,
privately operated prisons have systematic problems in maintaining the
security. Advocates, have argued that private prisons can pay less and still
deliver a product of the same quality, however the research shows the
contrary.182 The same study also suggested that workers in private prisons
couldn’t maintain an acceptable level of public safety or inmate care.183 In
order to strenghen the argument data from another meta-analysis are presented.
The study argues that “publicly managed prisons tended to perform better with
regard to public safety” (Lundahl
et al, 2007).

Private prisons and rehabilitation

is a very important aspect for publicly manage prisons, because it reduces
recidivism thus saving future costs and assures public safety as inmates have
an easier time integrating back into society. Recidivism and rehabilitation are
very closely tied together as the sole purpose of rehabilitation programs is to
lower the rate of inmate re-incarceration. In this sense one scholar notes that
companies operating private prisons may be so concerned with profit making and
satisfying stockholders that some major goals of the correctional institution,
one of them being rehabilitation, may be overloocked. 197 Another point worth
mentioning is that there is little incentive to spend money on rehabilitation
because the more individuals are sent in prison and the higher the rate of
recidivism, would lead to higher profits for private facilities. Moreover,
recidivism can be seen as a steady source of clientele which in turn has
negative consequences for the public.

& Sharp have proposed in their research to measure the effectivness of
private prisons in terms of recidivism rates. This parameter assures that
companies don’t purposfully halt the rehabilitation processes in order to
benefit from a steady stream of inmates and helps determine the quality of
services provided. The study which analysed data from Oklahoma prisons
concluded that private prison inmates have a greater hazard of recidivism than
public prison inmates. 199

Last piece of the puzzle

Inmates are without a doubt captive employees. Firstly, all
prisoners work both in private and public managed facilities, they are never
late or miss a day of work. Secondly, inmates are paid from US$1.09 to US$2.75
per day. Another aspect to consider is forced labour. The definition stated by
the Forced Labour Convention is “all work or service which is exacted from any
person under the menance of any penalty and for which the said person has not
offered himself voluntarily”. 207 Even though, it seems that this definition
includes prisoners too, they are excluded from the convention by article
2(2)(c). 208. Therefore, prison labour is not considered forced labour. Prisoners,
however, are protected by the requirment that the work is “carried out under
the supervision and control of a public authority and that the prisoner is
not hired to or placed at the disposal of private individuals, companies or associations”.
The committee of Experts found that prisoners can be placed to work for private
entities only when the prisoner offers himself voluntarily. The problem which
arises is how to asses the willingness to work. Moreover, there must be no
punishment or negative effects such as forced idleness or being clasified as a “bad
prisoner” which in turn would limit the opportunities for early release.

There is no straightforward answer to what is morally
responsible behaviour. Ultimately, it comes down to the culture of a society,
its individual beliefs and the standards that they set for themselves (Fischer,
1999). This notion is also intertwined with the fact that judicial power should
be exerted by the government because they are accountable to their citizens. In
the case of prison privatisation there is a transfer of the power of detention
of those convicted from the public to a private entity. There are ethical
implications especially, when we combine a missalignment of incentives with the
power to control people’s basic life conditions in captivity.

2.3  Limitations

Before stating the Hypothesis, there is a need to adress
the limitations of the analysis. Prison Privatisation has a lot of implications
which makes the task of adressing all of them nearly impossible. Firstly, most
of the research analysed had to compare public and private prisons head to
head. This is a serious limitation due to the difference of prisons based on
different indicators like: number, race, gender, age of inmates; the security
level of prison, type of offenders, age of the facility and many other. All
these factors influence the accuracy of inferences made. Secondly, the
psychological aspect of the matter isn’t disscused in this paper due to the
limited amount of research on the topic. The effect of labour in captivity, the
effect of violance, the effect of low pay and the effect of low skilled
officers on the psychology of the inmates and their behaviour would add clarity
to the debate. Thirdly, there is little to no research from the inside of a
private prison. The papers used in this essay are predomently based on the data
offered by the corporations, however, the stories from inmates that had been
incarcerated in private facilities form a completly different picture, a more
obscure one. However, these statements cannot be considered due to their
subjective nature and no research has been found which would include
information from witnesses of the private prison detention.

2.4  Hypothesis

This paper is an attempt to shed light on the topic of
prison privatisation. There are a lot of benefits stated by businesses
administrating prisons, however, when looking at data from research their
claims don’t seem to hold. Cost savings if existant are minimal, scant economic
benefit for local communities, divergent incentives to curb recidivism and
promote rehabilitation, a lower quality of confinment, increased violance and
threat to public safety. Therefore, if 
the advantages of prison privatisation are non existant or limited at
best, we can conclude that these businesses are profiting from punishment, which
is commonly seen as unethical and morally iresponsible. When the concept is
stripped down of alll the supposed benefits, at its core remains an intricate
form of slavery which is covered up from the public.

3.    Conclusion


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