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The Drain of Public Prison Systems and the Role of Privatization:
A Case Study of State Correctional Systems

(Released February 2010)

  by David W. Miller  


Key Citations



Resources News Articles
Historical Newspapers

News Articles

  1. Prison reform, in theory; An untested privatization plan and a destructive budgeting formula -- are these the state's best options?

    Editorial Page, Los Angeles Times, 01-17-2010

    When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed shifting female inmates out of prisons to community detention centers in 2006, the Legislature said no. When he asked lawmakers the following year to approve $10.9 billion in bonds to build new prisons while also reforming sentencing laws and parole rules, they reduced the bond package and jettisoned the reforms. Last year, when he asked them to cut the prison budget by $1.2 billion, they fell about $200 million short. We don't blame the governor for being frustrated, but we do fault him for apparently giving up.

    Schwarzenegger's latest prison plan, unveiled in his State of the State address earlier this month, is less a serious policy proposal than a hunk of red meat tossed out at voters who are understandably furious about cuts in education spending. It combines a deeply destructive budgeting formula with an untested theory about prison privatization. . . .

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

  2. Arizona May Put All State Prisons in Private Hands

    Steinhauer, Jennifer, The New York Times, 10-24-2009

    One of the newest residents on Arizona's death row, a convicted serial killer named Dale Hausner, poked his head up from his television to look at several visitors strolling by, each of whom wore face masks and vests to protect against the sharp homemade objects that often are propelled from the cells of the condemned.

    It is a dangerous place to patrol, and Arizona spends $4.7 million each year to house inmates like Mr. Hausner in a super-maximum-security prison. But in a first in the criminal justice world, the state's death row inmates could become the responsibility of a private company.

    State officials will soon seek bids from private companies for 9 of the state's 10 prison complexes that house roughly 40,000 inmates, including the 127 here on death row. It is the first effort by a state to put its entire prison system under private control. . . .

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

  3. State legislation could privatize Yuma prison, impact jobs

    Stephanie A. Wilken, The Sun, Yuma, Ariz., McClatchy - Tribune Business News, 05-21-2009

    May 21--In a move to balance the budget, state Republicans say privatizing three state prisons, including the facility in Yuma, could save millions, but one local Democratic lawmaker is opposed.

    Sen. Amanda Aguirre, D-Yuma and member of appropriations, said she'll vote against the bill, which was in appropriations Wednesday evening. But, she said with a count of four Democrats and seven Republicans, the bill will most likely pass appropriations. . . .

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  4. Lawsuit raises questions about prison privatization

    Schnitzler, Peter, Indianapolis Business Journal, 10-13-2008

    A newly filed federal lawsuit alleging widespread abuse of Indiana inmates raises questions about the state's privatization of prison health care.

    The Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission, a not-for-profit watchdog organization, sued the Indiana Department of Correction on Oct. 1, charging it regularly segregates mentally ill prisoners into isolation for 23 hours a day.

    According to the suit, the prisoners are punished by stripping away their clothes and being fed a diet consisting entirely of "nutraloaf," described as "a food substance made by cooking vegetables together so they form a block" . . . .

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

Historical Newspapers

    St. Louis Post - Dispatch. Dec 28, 1886. pg. 4

    Abstract (Summary) When REGINALD FBONT DE BOEUF and WILLIAM DE LA MARCK, the Boar of Ardennes, sent their armed retainers out to seize wayfaring Jews or other rich prizes and incarcerated such captives in their castle vaults and dungeons, there to be kept and tortured till they had paid roundly for freedom, such outrages were. . .

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)


    From the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times, July 25. New York Times. Aug 2, 1891. pg. 8

    Abstract (Summary) Our recollection of the history of leasing convict labor in Tennessee since the war is only a matter of memory; we have no records or documents to refer to.

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

  3. CONVICT LEASE SYSTEM WRONG; So Declares Hon. Fermor Barrett, Representative from Stephens

    The Atlanta Constitution. Jun 15, 1908. pg. 6

    Abstract (Summary) Hon. Fermor Barrett, representative in the lower house of the general assebly from Stephens county, and who was recently renominated, is strongly opposed to the convict lease system. He also opposes working convicts on

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

  4. Private-Enterprise Prisons? Why Not? The Job Would Be Done Better and at Less Cost

    PETER GREENWOOD. Los Angeles Times. May 11, 1981. pg. C5

    Abstract (Summary) In the past month, people at the highest levels of state government have offered proposals for acommodating our expanding prison population, and now Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. is proposing a quarter-cent sales tax increase to raise $2.5 billion for that purpose. But bigger, newer prisons will not necessarily be better prisons.

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

Taken from ProQuest's Historical Newspapers.


  1. Privatization of corrections

    by Hopkins, William J., M.A., State University of New York Empire State College, 2007 , 106 pages

    Abstract (Summary)
    The objective of this paper is to review, from the available literature, the topic of private prisons. Privatization of prisons is not a new phenomenon. But it has been only recently that private industry has begun making major inroads into this type of enterprise. This paper examines the pros and cons of prison privatization. The public and private sector both have strengths and weaknesses relative to the management of prisons. Neither has a distinct advantage over the other when all aspects of prison management are considered, based on my research. It appears that there is a place for both and that each has something to learn from the other. This work intends to shed some light on this issue.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Database

  2. The economic motivations of prison privatization: Assessing convict labor's influence on the drive to privatize prisons

    by Rice, Shelley R.,Ph.D., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey - Newark, 2006 , 208 pages

    Abstract (Summary)
    I n the current climate of government reform, prison privatization has gained popularity in states facing fiscal stress. This research challenges research findings of prison privatization's efficiency and effectiveness. This research provides empirical support for an alternative explanation for the drive to privatize prisons: profit-making organizations' need for low-cost prison labor.

    Data on the number of facilities, total populations, number of inmates in prison industry or convict labor programs, prison educational and vocational programs, and inmate labor wage rates in public prison and private prisons form the basis for this investigation. The study compared privately owned or managed prisons with publicly owned and managed ones.

    The findings indicate that economic efficiency and private enterprise use of prison labor seem to have a relationship with prison privatization. The rise of privatization of prisons seems to be cyclical and dependent in many ways on the private sector's need for low-cost convict labor. Whether privatized prisons and the use of low cost convict labor today resemble the convict leasing system restricted by legislation in the 1930's, today's prisons privatization movement emerged. When states faced fiscal stress, changes took place in corrections philosophy to a work ethic model from a rehabilitation model, and Chief Justice Warren Burger pushed for prisons as factories, the prison privatization movement grew. The research ends by observing that conditions are ripe for exploitation of prison labor by private enterprise using prisons as factories.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Database

  3. An evaluation study of the comparison between private and public prisons

    by Okamoto, Tomonari, M.A., Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 2005 , 84 pages

    Abstract (Summary)
    Prison privatization has been more common in the last 20 years. In 1980s, under the perception of "nothing works" of rehabilitation, a severe problems occurred in corrections because of get-tough policies. That is, prison crowding. To solve prison overcrowding quickly, private prisons have emerged. Nowadays, the number of inmates confined in privately operated correctional facilities and the number of privately operated facilities has increased. The arguments over private prisons are divided. Some agree and others disagree with prison privatization. Advocates say many merits, meanwhile others doubt such merits. Therefore, this study evaluates whether governments should increase their use of private prisons using three criteria: Costs, services, and recidivism rates. This study has the limitation of available research. Because present prison privatization has only a short history, the number and areas of available research is limited. The second limitation is observation term. This study points out that it is necessary to observe private prisons for a long span.

    Therefore, this study recommends policy-makers establish the system to evaluate cost-effectiveness. This study also recommends that policy-makers consider recidivism rates as a criterion of effectiveness in order to keep the quality of services in private prisons. This study also recommends researchers conduct research in order to help policy-makers to do that. Now, there is no significant difference in recidivism rates between private and public prisons with few exceptions. Private prisons are neither better nor worse than public prisons. Therefore, this study concludes that governments should not increase their use of private prisons so immediately.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Database

  4. A sociological history of prison privatization in the contemporary United States

    by Selman-Killingbeck, Donna, Ph.D., Western Michigan University, 2005 , 237 pages

    Abstract (Summary)
    This dissertation is framed by the radical criminological-theoretical perspective and utilizes the social constructionist method of analysis to examine the development of prison privatization in the United States. Central to this analysis is the question: How is it that, given the disastrous history of blatant attempts to blend capitalism and punishment, contemporary privatization of prisons not only emerged but continues to expand becoming a multinational incarceration industry? Three phases of privatization: emergence, maintenance and perpetuation, are illuminated in their political, economic and cultural contexts. The strategies and techniques, access to power, claims-making and managing counterclaims for example, of various stakeholders in the corrections commercial complex, politicians, prison officials and industry leaders are examined. The findings indicate that the conditions---political, economic and cultural---are ripe for even more growth in operational privatization, and further, the claims and strategies used to promote operational privatization of prisons are resurfacing to capture even more raw materials (people). This work concludes that by understanding the deep sociological and cultural roots of crime control, a posture of resistance to this existing form of domination and future expansion of formal control mechanisms in the name of reform can be pursued. Finally this research recommends that one possible way to confront social inequality, seek to liberate oppressed people and prevent further oppression is to illuminate the strategies, techniques, discourse and entanglements of the corrections commercial complex. Through this process one can begin to construct a new politics of truth; changing and challenging the political, economic and institutional regime of the production of truth.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Database