U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Contracting for the Operation of Private Prisons: Pros and Cons

NCJ Number
C R Ring
Date Published
50 pages
This report -- an abridged version of 'Prisons for Profit,' prepared by the Massachusetts Legislative Research Bureau by order of the General Court of Massachusetts -analyzes the ethical, financial, legal, and other public policy concerns raised by private prison proposals.
One issue considered is whether injection of the profit motive into prison operations will produce a system that is less just, less accountable, and more likely to sacrifice inmate welfare to profits. An associated concern is the possible formation of a private prison lobby that will push for harsher sentences and the expanded use of prisons in the interest of more profits. Another issue addressed in the report is whether supplementing the current government monopoly over corrections operations with privately operated facilities will yield better prisons at less cost. A third matter discussed is whether private prisons will undermine the legal safeguards for both inmates and the public. Controls are identified as the crucial element in the implementation of private prisons. Associated issues include contractor selection and contract approval, the contract term, monitoring, disciplinary decisions, insurance, contract termination, and service disruption. The limited number of private prison precedents and the absence of any objective analyses of those currently operating (primarily detention facilities for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the St. Mary's Corrections Facility in Kentucky) prevents any empirical basis for arguing for or against private prisons. The future of such facilities will depend on the willingness of States to conduct pilot projects that will produce the needed evaluation data. 1 table and chapter footnotes.