Jail cells

Private Prisons vs. Government-Run Facilities

In today’s world, one of the most pressing issues is prison overcrowding and funding. After the bail process is over, many individuals end up spending time in jail and prison. To combat this problem, some states have outsourced their prisons and have them instead run by private companies.

An idea that is still in its infancy, it has both supporters and detractors. However, with issues such as jail overcrowding, inmate rights, recidivism, and more on the forefront of the political landscape, these and many other factors are usually taken into consideration when deciding if privatization or government-run facilities are the best option.

Privatization and Regulations

For those who support private prisons, they often point to the fact that private prisons are heavily regulated, and are constantly audited and monitored to ensure inmates and staff are being treated appropriately. Arguably, there is much more accountability in private prisons than in government facilities, where some experts believe staff are held far less accountable for their actions.

Freedom of Information

Despite many people stating private prisons are better due to stricter regulations, others believe government facilities are better due to the availability and transparency of information. One of the major differences between these two concepts is while government prisons are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, private prisons are not. Thus, the ACLU comes down on the side of government facilities, noting that if questions arise the facts are much easier to uncover.

Incarceration Rates

While many politicians speak of lowering recidivism rates, releasing more non-violent offenders, and rewriting legislation to direct funding to programs that would keep offenders who are able to make bail out of prison, private prisons may actually want the opposite. Because they are for-profit companies in the private business sector, their number one goal is, of course, profits. Therefore, when the political focus turns to lowering the prison population, the private prison lobbyists start to go to work. In fact, there have been many documented cases of these companies providing campaign funding to candidates who support tougher sentencing laws. However, despite private prisons seemingly having no incentive to see recidivism rates reduced, most experts have agreed that under the right contractual agreement, rehabilitation could become a much bigger part of the private prison experience.

Private vs. Government Outcomes

Ultimately, the question that must be answered in this debate is which system offers the best outcomes for both inmates and staff. While some point to a 2010 Department of Justice study citing private prisons have far more problems with recidivism rates and assaults of both inmate on inmate and inmate on staff, others have referenced studies that stated just the opposite. In most cases, it’s agreed that while private prisons appear to be here to stay, they are by no means the ultimate solution to providing better public safety nor improved rehabilitation options for prisoners.

An ambiguous issue for sure, the debate that has lasted for years is expected to continue for many more. To date, all that has been agreed upon is that neither private prisons nor government-run facilities have all the answers.

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