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Private Prisons in the United States: An Assessment of Current Practice

NCJ Number
Douglas McDonald Ph.D.; Elizabeth Fournier; Malcolm Russell-Einhourn J.D.; Stephen Crawford
Date Published
July 1998
229 pages
This report examines the current state of practice, law and research with respect to privately operated prisons in the United States, at all levels of security.
The report reviews the body of current law relevant to privately operated prisons, including Federal and State statutes, regulations and case law. It assesses current knowledge regarding the cost and cost-effectiveness of privately operated prisons by means of reviews and evaluations of existing research on cost and quality of performance. The report's focus is limited principally to contracting by State and Federal Government for the private management and operation of facilities that are analogous to secure State or Federal prisons. The most commonly reported reason for contracting with private management was not to reduce costs but to alleviate overcrowding in the public system and to acquire needed beds quickly. The report discusses whether contracting for prison operations saves money, whether privately operated facilities provide better services, legal issues relevant to contracting for imprisonment, and implications for Federal prisons. Notes, figures, tables, references, appendixes