Pros and Cons of Privatization of Prisons

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For several decades, prison populations have been on the rise in the United States and around the world. There are several countries that greatly exceed the amount of space that has been allotted for prisoners. The state of California is a classic example of this, where there is nearly two prisoners for every bed that currently exists. By creating a system of privatization, it may become possible to house all of the prisoners that are necessary to protect a society at large from greater harm.

Just as there are some advantages to the privatization of prisons, there are also some disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this subject.

The Pros of the Privatization of Prisons

1. Privatized prisons tend to be able to be run at lower costs.
There is a greater emphasis on cost management in a private organization than there is through public service. Public servants also tend to make more money in salary in the corrections field than private workers do. Through cost-cutting and a 50% reduction in wages that a private institution can provide, it becomes easier to house the amount of inmates that need to be contained.

2. Privatized prisons tend to be run more efficiently.
Profitability is certainly an issue, but so is the overall efficiency of the prison. Better medical care and prisoner management through rehabilitation can occur because the entire process of the prison has been streamlined. When there isn’t as much red tape that must be cut through in order to get something done, everyone benefits.

3. Privatized prisons can lead to a better overall recidivism performance.
With financial incentives in place, privatized prisons have a reason to make sure that prisoners get the help that they need. This tends to lead to safer conditions, better living conditions, and more effective rehabilitation programs. Whenever financial rewards are tied to recidivism rates in a community, the privatized prison will lower the rates of crime.

The Cons of the Privatization of Prisons

1. There can be a lack of transparency.
Public institutions are required by the laws of most jurisdictions to be completely transparent in their activities. Privatized institutions, on the other hand, don’t necessarily have that same provision. When it comes to the management of prisoners, transparency is extremely important. There is no other way to determine if prisoners are being treated fairly then through a transparent system of policies.

2. There is a risk of dependency.
If just one or two companies are relied upon to provide prison needs, then those companies can begin to dictate the terms and conditions of their contracted agreements to their advantage. The public institution will have no choice but to pay those costs because they have stepped away from their role in the prison system and the result might be higher costs.

3. Money becomes a priority.
If the prison starts losing money, what is going to happen to the prisoners? There’s a good chance that the quality of food for the living conditions will be reduced in order for profitability to be achieved once again.

When more money is dedicated to the prison system, it almost always is to higher prisoner populations. Maybe the solution to reduce prison overpopulation is to actually the fund the privatization of prisons instead of giving them more access. Either way, this subject definitely has some supporters and some detractors for these specific reasons.

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Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.