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Private Versus Public Juvenile Correctional Facilities: Do Differences in Environmental Quality Exist?

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 49 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 542-563
Gaylene Styve Armstrong; Doris Layton MacKenzie
Date Published
October 2003
22 pages

This article examined the differences in environmental quality, via the cognitive assessment of incarcerated juveniles, between private and public sector correctional facilities.


As the emergence of private sector correctional facilities continues to grow, questions have been raised about the quality of private sector facilities. The main concern is that since the private sector is governed by profits, corners will be cut in privately owned correctional facilities to increase the profit margin. The authors collected data from 48 residential juvenile correctional facilities in 19 States (16 private and 32 public) and surveyed 4,121 incarcerated juveniles in order to examine environmental quality of the facilities. Data for this study were previously gathered by one of the authors for a different study of correctional facilities. Two surveys were administered to the participants; one focused on the assessment of the physical and social environment of the facility, while the other focused on objective facility characteristics such as daily population, program components, capacity, and numbers of staff. Results of hierarchical linear modeling of the juveniles’ cognitive assessments suggest that there is no significant difference in environmental quality between private and public sector correctional facilities. Future research should focus on an assessment of the recidivism rates of private correctional facilities and of their treatment of offenders. Appendix, notes, references