Technical Report


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Technical Report

  1. 1. Brittany MeadeENC 324110 March 2013Professor Danielle PowellPublic versus Private Prisons: Technical ReportAbstractThe purpose of this report is to inform the reader of the comparisons between public prisons andprivate prisons. The report will detail the definitions, history, locations, pros and cons, costefficiency, and overall data comparisons of both sanctions. It was also provide arecommendation for which is the most efficient way to house inmates based on staticallyinformation regarding cost and rehabilitation efforts and their effects. The report should providethe reader with information about how both facilities work, and which one is more ideal than theother.IntroductionFor many years now, private and public prisons have been a topic of interest. This controversialtopic has risen due to the demand for more prisons to house more inmates. Throughout thecourse of this report, the reader will find in depth research done on the diverse aspects of bothpublic and private correctional facilities. It is important to understand their roles, the laws andregulations for both, and case studies that have proven which facilities are most beneficial to
  2. 2. correctional programs.Definitions of Public and Private PrisonsPublic (State/government Ran) PrisonsPrison facilities run by state correctional authorities. Prisoners housed in thesefacilities are under the legal authority of the state government andgenerally serving a term of more than 1 year (BJS.)Private PrisonA private prison, jail, or detention center is a place in which individuals arephysically confined or interned by a third party that is contracted by a local,state or federal government agency.HistoryPublic prisons in the US date back to the 19th century, when incarceration of was firstconsidered a type if punishment. They were formerly called "penitentiaries." Their purpose wasto make their prisoners religious pennants, who were serving time for their sins. Prisons, orpenitentiaries, were a great source of incarceration until they became known for theirovercrowding and deplorable conditions (Borge.)Private prisons are also knows as "for-profit" prisons. They too, are known as a detention center,jail, and correctional facility. The federal and state government has a history of contracting outprivate organizations to take over medical services, food preparation, inmate transportation,training etc. The 1980s, however, is when privatization of prisons began to prosper. The DrugWar was a direct influence on more inmates being incarcerated, thus needing more prisons
  3. 3. within the U.S. In 1984, the Corrections Corporation of America won one of the first majorcontracts for a private prison. Despite much opposition from public employees and skeptics, theCCA expanded country wide, and currently has about 153 private sectors (Wikipedia.)CostIt has been taunted for years that private prisons are more cost effective than public prisons.However, there has been no real evidence of this. A researcher named Dr. Charles Thomasconducted a study of the cost efficiency of private prisons, and was found that his evidence wasfalse and incorrect. He was fined a great deal for his false research and conclusions. Anotherstudy was done for the Subcommittee on Crime, Committee on Justice, and the House ofRepresentatives where they asked 3 states (California, Tennessee, and Washington) to survey thecosts for their private and public prisons. These particular states showed there was no realsignificant difference between the two (GAO.)The DOC director in Arizona finds there is difficulty in conducting an apples-to-applescomparison of facilities because of the many differences in operations and cost factors between astate and private-run facility, beginning with the number of prisoners served. In fiscal year 2011,state-run prisons housed 85 percent of Arizona prisoners, with an average daily population of34,155, while private prisons housed the remaining 15 percent, or 6,071 prisoners. As of Oct. 31,the department also had jurisdiction over 5,822 offenders on community supervision (Walker.)Data and ResearchPrivate prisons were built on the belief that profit will be of greater importance to the privatesector than the constitutional, ethical, or fair treatment of its inmates and staff. Since laboraccounts for approximately 70% of all prison expenses, the secret to low-cost operations is tohave the minimum number of officers watching the maximum number of inmates. Data were
  4. 4. obtained from the Criminal Justice Institutes (CJI) Corrections Yearbook. The 1998 and 2000editions were initially selected for comparative analysis. However, data on the private sectorwere incomplete for 2000. During 1998, approximately 74% of the prisoners held by the privatesector and 53% of the private prisons were represented in the data set. However, by 2000, only35% of the prisoners held by the private sector and 36% of the private prisons were represented.Specific areas of prison operations for 2000 fared even worse. For example, only 12 privateprisons (down from 53 in 1998) provided information on employee turnover rates. Since data for2000 were incomplete, data were obtained solely from 1998. During both 1998 and 2000, 88% ofall public sector prisoners were represented in the CJI data-sets (Blakley, Bumphus.)A report by Blakley and Bumphus in the Federal Probation Journal concluded the followingbased on several studies and reports:- The private sector reported an average of 40 assaults on inmates and 9 assaults onstaff per prison.-The public sector reported 19 assaults on inmates and 10 assaults on staff per prison.This suggests that the private sector experienced more than twice the number of assaultsagainst inmates than did the public sector and slightly fewer assaults against staff-The private sector reported on average 28% of their inmate population participated indrug treatment programs. On the other hand, the public sector reported that 14% oftheir inmate population participated in similar treatment programs. This suggests thatprivate sector prisons had, on average, twice the number of inmates participating in drugtreatment than did the public sector.-The private sector reported that it paid its inmates a wage of $1.09 to $2.75 per dayfor non-industry labor (6.5 hours per day). The public sector reported that it paid its
  5. 5. inmates an average wage of $0.99 to $3.13 per day for non-industry labor (6.5 hoursper day). This suggests that the private sector paid $0.10 per day more than did thepublic sector for their average minimum wage, but approximately $0.38 per day less forits average maximum wage.-When considering custody levels, the private sector houses approximately 21% fewerinmates at the maximum and close security levels and approximately 15% more inmatesat the minimum security level than does the public sector. Thus, 90% of the privatesectors inmate population is classified at the medium or minimum levels, whereas only69% of the public sectors inmate population are so designated. When considering theaverage number of months served by inmates prior to release, the private sectorreported a stay of 11 months versus approximately 28 months for the public sector.- The average length of stay for inmates in private sector prisons was over 16 monthsless than for inmates incarcerated by the public sector. This is consistent with differencesin classification where higher security designations are often tied to offence seriousnessand sentence length.-The private sector operated at 82% capacity while public sector prisons operated onaverage at 113% capacity. Thus, private prisons were operating at 18% below theircapacity levels while public prisons were operating at 13% above their designedcapacity levels.-In 1998, the private sector paid officers $15,919 to $19,103. This range represents adifference of $3,184. During this same year, public prisons paid their officers $21,246to $34,004. This range represents a difference of $12,758. Thus, the private sectorpaid new officers approximately $5,327 less than did the public sector while offering
  6. 6. less advancement in salary, with the difference in maximum salaries being $14.90.Overall ComparisonsBoth sectors certainly have their pros and cons. Based on the data shown above, it seems that forinmates, the private prisons are more ideal. More offenders attend drug treatment programsbased on study mentioned, which leads me to conclude more rehabilitation comes out of theprivate sector. They are paid more for their labor and are less crowded as public sectors. On thecontrary, public sectors are more ideal for the staff. There were fewer assaults on officers inpublic prisons than in private. Staff wages were a great deal higher when employed in the publicprison, along with better government benefits. Turnover rates are also much higher in the privatesector, meaning there is more job security in the public prison. The officer to inmate ratio is alsobetter in public sectors, making it a safer environment for staff members.Conclusion and RecommendationPrivate sectors are proven to be more dangerous than a public sector. They adhere to a less idealway of how prisons should be run. Granted, public prisons are going to have more overcrowding,but the inmate to staff ratio remains at a safe constant. Personally, I feel it is better to look out forthe best interest of the staff before the inmates, especially if inmates use privatization to theiradvantage. Rehabilitation efforts should be increased in public prisons to equal out to the privatesectors, and public prisons will have the better majority.
  7. 7. ReferencesBlakley, Bumphis. "Private and Public Sector Prisons—A Comparison of SelectCharacteristics."Federal Probation. 68.1 (2011): n. page. Print.<>.Borge, Christian . "Sparks Fly Over Private vs Public Prisons." Prison PolicyInitiative.N.p..Web. 17 Mar 2013. <>.United States General Accounting Office. United States General Accounting Office.PRIVATE AND PUBLIC PRISONS Studies Comparing Operational Costs and/or Quality ofService."Private Prison." Wikipedia. 2009. <>.Walker, Teri. "Corrections Evaluates Both Private And Public Prisons." AZJournal.(2011): n. page. Print. <>.