Prisons and institutions that are similar to them are essential in the sense of punishing offenders, but most importantly rehabilitating them to be better law-abiding citizens and deter them from committing the same offense. Prisons are commonly run by governments that provide the basic logistics and criteria for running such institutions CITATION Jew06 p 5 l 2057 (Jewkes and Johnston 5). However, there was an interesting change of the game as from the 1990s when UK authorities decided to introduce private prisons. Currently, it is estimated that there are 184 private prisons, holding 132,346 inmates, in the world. In the United States, 158 private prisons operate in 30 states. CITATION Aus13 p 9 l 2057 (Austin and Coventry 9) The issue of private prisons has for a long time been a contentious one due to the many questions raised on the credibility of such institutions and their ability to function without manipulation and external interference. The introduction of private prisons was set to meet certain objectives that were drawn from emerging issues on how the government prisons are run. Authorities saw the need to reduce congestion of prisons and improve their standards. Overcrowding was the major reason for the introduction of private prisons due to the increasing number of minor offenders convicted on short prison terms. The increasing number of prisoners meant that they had to share the few resources available leading to the dwindling of sanitation and other basic standards. Private prisons had the further advantage of reducing costs used to run them due to the efficiency that come with running private institutions. Private prisons have come to be accepted by many authorities with human rights watchdogs advocating for such institutions to reduce congestion and improve the quality of life for prisoners. The whole idea has however not been spared of criticism especially in the media where many analysts have questioned the rationale of duplicating such institutions. This paper explores the whole topic of private prisons. It begins by briefly discussing the history of private prisons and what necessitated their emergence. It then discusses how contemporary authorities have benefited from the implementation of private corrective facilities. It also looks at the various disadvantages and challenges faced by these private. Finally, it explores the future of private correction institutions.
Interestingly, the privatization of correction facilities is an old concept. Dating back to the 1800s, many prison institutions had signed contracts with private institutions that in turn sub contracted them to work in privately owned companies CITATION Cha01 p 4 l 2057 (Champion 4). This idea was however rapidly short down and strongly criticized by those who saw it as an avenue for corruption. Similarly, some wealthy individuals opposed this move due to the unfair competition that had emerged since there was a group of unpaid workers that now worked for their rival companies. Nonetheless, contemporary private prisons run on an almost totally different principle. They even have numerous other features that have been added to them. Their introduction has meant that there have to be numerous changes in the structures of the government-run prisons. Currently, private correction facilities not only aim to achieve correction and rehabilitation of offenders but also seek to earn revenue and make huge profits by exploiting the labor from inmates. Initially, private prisons were set up with the aim of correcting the fault in government institutions. However, their introduction came with many twists leading to the shifting from the main objective – rehabilitation – towards profit making thereby attracting great criticism from observers. Many people sharply criticize these institutions as having lost focus on the primary objective, which is correction and rehabilitation of prisoners.
The cost of crime continues to increase due to the rising crime rates. Early in the 20th century, the total cost of constructing the prison facilities and rehabilitating prisoners was estimated to be approximately seven billion in dollars. This cost excludes the cost of paying the guards and other essential prison activities. The rationale for setting up private firms to run prisons was that the cost of all these services would not be derived from the taxpayers’ pocket. This meant that the government could channel the funds used in these services elsewhere.
Private prisons come with numerous obvious benefits and advantages. Cost saving is by far the most viable advantage setting up of private prisons. The increasing number of crime cases means that the cost of dealing with crime is always on the rise. Since crime is considered as a social problem by many government entities, billions of dollars are invested towards setting them up and maintaining their functionality. The majority of the cost, however, is swallowed by the recruitment of guards and sourcing of other social services for the inmates. The proponents for private prisons have used this as the basis of their argument. They have continuously argued that governments use huge sums of money directly from the taxpayers to run prisons that can be run economically through private sums and save governments a huge fortune. With this, the government can then invest in other sectors of the economy that need more urgent funding. Several laws and the red tape have often been blamed as the factors that increase the cost of running prisons with contemporary authorities shifting their focus towards privately run firms. The private institutions have efficiently eliminated these issues to make them the institutions of choice.
Private institutions have for a long time been lauded for their flexibility and innovativeness. Unlike government institutions, in which people are too comfortable with the current situations, private firms have to be creative and innovative if they are to be the competition that is always tangible among their opponents. Prior to their introduction, many analysts proposed that private prisons would come up with new ideas on how to rehabilitate inmates. Privately owned prisons have the potential to look at the issues facing conventional prisons and forge new ways to manage them efficiently while dealing with the problems from a new perspective CITATION Nat03 l 2057 (National Audit Office). This came to light in 1998 with the report about the inspection of Buckley Hall in which the chief inspector in charge of the program suggested that private institutions had the ability to run prisons differently and view problems from a different perspective. In fact, an advantage of having private firms running is that they are flexible in the sense of making new changes on issues that emerge. This is due to the simple fact that private institutions are not tied to the bureaucracies that are common to government institutions. Bureaucracies make the process of making changes too long and inefficient. Private firms are designed to be intrinsically efficient to beat the competition and make a profit. It is this same basic principle that will motivate the owners of such firms to offer better rehabilitative services as compared to those offered by authorities. Making people accountable through the signing of contracts to a certain assignment makes institutions more innovative.
Economists further approve the use of privately owned prisons to house inmates for the sake of reducing costs CITATION Luk06 p 194 l 2057 (Lukemeyer and Richard 194). There are numerous hidden expenses that come with every authority establishing its correction facility. This starts with the sourcing of land to build these facilities up to the minor expenses that come up with the offering of services. Government institutions have set standards that must be met during their establishment. There are clear laid down rules on how government institutions should be set up. This, of course, escalates the costs of setting up government institutions. The basic rationale of outsourcing the management of prisons to private firms is that they are predicted to operate at dramatically lower costs in comparison to government-run prisons. If the success of private prisons is based on the extent to which costs are slashed, and the improvement of services, proponents of this idea are convinced that privately run correction facilities will achieve more than expected. Recent studies have gone forward to estimate the cost of running private institutions as compared to those run by the state. For instance, a recent research showed that in the private prisons consumed 15-20% less expenditure when compared to those that are run by government authorities CITATION Luk06 p 195 l 2057 (Lukemeyer and Richard 195). A prison review that was done in 1997, in the UK, went ahead to indicate that private prisons saved between 8 and 15 percent regarding expenditure. It further stated that private firms were as good as and at times better than government institutions in the way they run their activities.
However, critics continue to argue that recent amendments and improvements in the government sector have made government institutions able to compete favorably with their private counterparts. The increasing efficiency in how the government runs its activities is worth noting. Critics also claim that government agencies have in general reduced their costs by approximately 11 percent citing several surveys done in UK institutions. Analysts, therefore, think that it will be counterproductive to leave this role to private firms while it is being managed efficiently by government bodies. Those who strongly oppose the setting up of private prison maintain that anything that has a low cost comes at a higher price disguised as a miscellaneous cost. Looking at it from an economic perspective, private prisons often employ advanced technology that displaces humans, therefore, reducing employment opportunities that are good for the economy CITATION Joh90 l 2057 (Johnston). Further private prisons have been seen to pay lower wages to their employees compared to government prisons. This is in itself a demerit since citizens also are expected to benefit directly from such institutions, yet the institutions are only interested in making a profit.
Many are of the opinion that the privatization of prisons and other government facilities will improve on accountability. It is debated that governments have the upper hand by imposing strict and tough guidelines in the contracts signed by private companies. This makes the companies contracted to be more responsible and accountable due to the tough penalties that come with the breach of such contracts. With this, authorities will not necessarily go through the trouble of dealing with their shortcomings due to the private institutions, which are tasked with the obligation of meeting the standards on behalf of the governments. The introduction of private prisons encourages healthy competition among the investors that run these facilities. Many private firms are often interested in the shortcomings of their rivals with the hope that if they improve on these areas, they will attract more clients due to the exemplary services offered CITATION Har96 p 1132 l 2057 (Hart, Andrei and Robert 1132). Gaining of commercial advantage in the private sector means eliminating competition by doing things differently. The idea of private prisons has been heavily based on this principle.
It is worth noting that privatization of prisons will see the invention of new ways to rehabilitate prisons as opposed to the old school way of denying prisoners freedom and confining them. In fact, many scholars have claimed that the detaining of offenders makes them more hardcore because they are exposed to an environment that is filled with people who have committed worse crimes. Private prisons have been explored to come up with new ways of dealing with the rehabilitation of prisoners and minor offenders. For instance, a new technology has been invented in which an electronic chip is inserted into one’s body to monitor their behavior. This technology has, however, been questioned on how it will safeguard the safety of other members of the society. It also raises the question on how effective it will be in deterring further crime.
The idea to privatize correction institutions is a plausible one. This is because it offers numerous advantages both to the private institutions and to the country as a whole. However, to clearly understand the advantages of private prisons more studies need to be done in comparison with other government-owned institutions. The whole idea of privatization seems to be a viable one if given the attention it deserves. There is a need to refocus the objectives of establishing prisons to those that cover the social aspect of the society. The whole concept of privatization of prisons is a contentious one due to the many challenges that come with the approval of such systems. A lot of consultations need to be done if these institutions are to be approved. This is majorly due to the many issues that have been raised by many critics who see private firms as concentrating too much on profit making at the expense of rehabilitating inmates.
There are many disadvantages that have arisen from the idea of setting up private prisons. Some studies and researches have been concluded that back such claims. This section of this paper will seek to highlight such factors that have been raised concerning privately run prisons and the accompanying researches that have been done in this field. Many critics are of the opinion that profit making has been the major motivator for privately run prisons CITATION Hal06 p 60 l 2057 (Hallet 60). It is this factor that has been predicted to arouse the conflict of interests that come with this concept. The primary idea for holding inmates in confined settings in not solely designed to punish them but also to rehabilitate them into becoming relevant members of the society once they have completed their terms. Concentrating too much on isolating prisoners from the society is a counterproductive measure since it does not allow for the reforming of inmates. Privately run prisons have been majorly faulted for this reason. It is an undeniable good factor that private prisons seek to cut costs. This would, however, translate to private prisons not meeting the social aspect of rehabilitating prisoners and therefore not being suitable public institutions. Private prisons prove not being as efficient as those run by authorities in the sense of being public corrective facilities. The whole idea of cutting costs in privately run prisons come at a great price. For an institution to cut down its expenditure, it will mean that programs as welfare and medical care will be delivered at dramatically reduced prices to meet the objectives. The management of such institutions will mean that they will hire staffs that are potentially less qualified to solicit their services at a cheaper wage. Compromising welfare at the expense of profit making has many negative consequences. The whole obsession of private prisons to profit making will eventually lead to a case scenario in which prisoners will experience poor conditions of living and access to substandard rehabilitation programs than is expected.
Further, a recent report filed in 2003 by the National Audit Office raised major concerns on the various aspects of service provision by privately run prisons. Issues such as the hiring of staff that is inexperienced to achieve a high turnover were reported CITATION Nat03 l 2057 (National Audit Office). Private firms often tend to hire people that are less experienced in some fields to cut on costs. This eventually compromises on quality of service delivery. The option of privately run prisons to hire less qualified staff means that the firms are more likely to offer poor remuneration leading to a significantly high turnover of employees. The high turnover is also potentially due to the poor working conditions. This directly affects the quality of services offered. Reports further argued that public institutions were far much safer than the privately run prisons due to the environment that the inmates are exposed to. It also adds that the terms of contracts issued to the private firms running prisons were not carefully and keenly structured to ensure they are standard places designed to rehabilitate prisoners. This ultimately leads to a situation in which every private prison runs its business differently depending on the preference of the directors. The terms under which private prisons are described have been trashed by controversy over the credibility of the services offered.
Another major issue that has continued to attract the interest of various critics is that of bad scoring. Numerous reports have indicated that privately run prisons have received bad scores in the areas of security and management. This has raised major concerns since the two areas are sensitive in the management of such institutions. The failures in management and security have been due to the inability to deter deliberate crimes such as drug trafficking within prisons and assault. The assault has been sharply criticized by human rights watchdogs, which have gone further to call for the immediate dissolution of such institutions due to the thinking that they put the lives of prisoners in danger CITATION Dun86 p 1488 l 2057 (Dunham 1488). This has been a hot topic as regards the running of these institutions. Austin conducted a survey on a prison with the aim of comparing the welfare of prisoners confined in various correction facilities. His findings were worrying as regards to the harsh conditions that both the inmates and staff had to cope with inside the private prisons. The report of the study indicated the rising cases of assault that were becoming more common in these private institutions when compared to the public ones. The details of the above events indicate that the cases of assault by prison wardens had increased by up to 49% while those by fellow inmates were staggering around 60%. This figure is almost double when compared to the cases that are recorded in the setup of public prisons. This factor in itself indicates that privately run institutions are less efficient when compared to those that are run by authorities. This has been a worrisome trend especially to those who wish to see the total makeover of prison institutions into being run by private firms. The issue of assault of inmates by their fellows or by guards has put great pressure on the debate on the running of private prisons with many arguing that it further makes the prisoners worse than they were before being incarcerated.
The issue of low-balling has also emerged as a major issue on the debate on whether to allow for the privatization of these institutions. This is a tactic that has often been used by private contractors on the government while seeking for contracts. This is a form of unethical business in which contractors bid for contracts at lower prices as compared to fellow competitors and once they win the bidding process, they go ahead to unprofessionally escalate the price CITATION Sel93 p 101 l 2057 (Sellers 101). In the end, many government projects stall at the foundation stage. The worst case scenario is that in which the competitors to those that are declared to have won the contract are declared bankrupt thereby leaving the government with no option. If this common trend is introduced to the justice system, the process of justice provision will crumble due to the predicted reduced efficiency. Sensitive matters such as those to do with justice need to be approached with a sober mind. The mixing of profit making and service provision will often prove futile. Justice structures need to be set up in a process that ensures they will run smoothly without stalling or any obstacles whatsoever. The whole concept of privatization of prisons will see the justice system lose its basic morals and principles due to the rapid shift of focus from that of restoring justice to that of profit-making that is common to financial institutions.
A further twist has been introduced with the new idea of privatization of prison institutions. In the US, various agencies such as the CCA, an organization contracted to rehabilitate prisoners has increasingly anticipated the detaining of individuals especially those who flaw immigration laws. This firm has gone ahead to build minimum security prisons while they anticipate the rise in the number of offenders due to the recent calls to tighten immigration was to deal with illegal immigrants. With immigration being an emerging yet persistent problem especially among the states southern of the United States, there is an anticipated huge sum of money in terms of profits to be made. A perfect example of this case scenario is the GEOs new facility that has been rumored to boast a bed capacity of up to 608. The facility is still new and critics joke that the facility still smells of fresh paint while it awaits new inmates who have gone against minor offenses such as immigration. It is for this reason that authorities are feared to use the pretext of being tough on law offenders just so as to make huge sums of money. However, while the idea of privatization is likely to flourish in terms of profit making, it is expected to bode the ill measures that are aimed at making sure that prisoners are rehabilitated. It has been predicted that the decriminalizing of certain activities such as drug abuse will cut profits for such private firms. This has made them move with speed in trying to advocate for the tightening of laws in order to nub more prisoners in a bid to increase the population of inmates while aiming at profit making.
In contemporary justice systems, the concept of freedom is rapidly evolving from being an exception rather than being a rule. Improving citizens in privately run institutions has fast become a cash cow for many huge corporations in the United Sates and around the world as well. For instance, in the United States, the principle of locking up hardcore criminals was to protect other members of the society from the hostilities of these inmates. This meant that the prisoners were to be kept under lock and key and watched for 24 hours under strict supervision. Recently, as numerous authorities move towards the privatization of prisons, the idea of cutting down costs by the introduction of private prisons has been faulted by those who feel that such institutions have many flaws as compared to the advantages that they offer regarding rehabilitating of individuals. The new ‘system of justice’ which many claim is more reformed is seen to be flawed due to the many loopholes that exist with the setting up of such structures. The system has been restructured to offer mass punishment without focusing on the individual inmates and how to rehabilitate them. Scholars argue that the idea of profit-making might be tempting. However, this is likely to introduce flaws in the system, therefore, interfering with ethics since private firms will possibly lobby for the tightening of laws in order to drive up the inmate population for the sake of drawing major profits from the projects.
The justice system carries with itself numerous advantages as well as disadvantages as regards the process of privatization of correction facilities. Some common arguments by many researchers and critics lack the tangible evidence, therefore, requiring further research to validate the claims. However, some arguments by those opposed to the privatization of prisons need to be taken into account and examined at a close eye with a clear mind if the justice system is to receive any important reforms. The issues that have been raised on the privatization of prison against the welfare of inmates need to be greatly considered by any government that cares about the welfare of its citizens at the expense of profit making. It is expected that government should be the guardians for the rights of their citizens. Any government that goes against this basic principle will be seen to be against the moral code of society. In any given public institution, morals and ethics should be the key factors that propel the way in which such institutions are run. However, letting such institutions to the public sector makes them more vulnerable to manipulation from those that are more interested towards drawing major profits for themselves at the expense of the objectives that have been laid down to safeguard the interests and rights of inmates. Critics have for a long time argued that standards and rights of citizens have constantly been taken for granted at the expense of profit making. It is the opinion of human rights activists that such institutions should be rejected with the strongest terms possible due to the possible interference of the rights of individuals who are citizens of the countries.
Many feel that the governments should move fast in restoring sanity in the sector that has been rocked by major controversies following the introduction of the concept of privatization of prisons. It is debatable whether human rights activists will win the war against the privatization of these institutions while holding onto the claim that privatization comes with numerous other disadvantages. One could not possibly trash all the benefits that come with private prisons under the argument that private prisons interfere with the rights of inmates; or that they are just institutions more concerned with making huge profits for their investors than correcting and rehabilitating offenders. What the opponents of this system fail to do is offer feasible alternatives. They also fail to acknowledge that the private institutions have remarkably solved the problem of overcrowding in the government prisons. This debate is an endless one when one chooses to introduce the facts for and against the idea of privatization of prisons. To argue that such systems have worked efficiently before would be inadequate due to the many contemporary issues that have arisen following the introduction of this complex concept.
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