Prison Cell

Private, for profit prisons house more than 100,000 inmates in the U.S. -- about 40 percent of the prison population. The privatization trend began in the 1980s fueled in part by “tough on crime” measures like the three strikes laws and increased incarceration rates.

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, The Washington Post reports. The coincidence of privatization and rising prison populations has led to studies evaluating the effectiveness and motivations of for-profit prisons.

The Private and Public Systems

Private prisons are run by for-profit corporations and are accountable to boards of directors and dividends paid to shareholders.

Federal taxes fund the prison system run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It is held accountable to the general public to provide an accepted standard of care to inmates.

The different operating methods between the two systems has caused public debate and studies focusing on standard of care and re-incarceration rates.

Incarceration vs. Rehabilitation

Studies have focused on comparing privately and publicly owned prisons. They have focused on employee training, safety standards, re-incarceration rates of inmates, and the cost and effect for society.

Those in favor of a private prison system tout cost savings, accountability, and benefits to the community in the form of tax revenues and jobs. They also contend private jails compete with public facilities and force them to run more efficiently.

Those opposing privatization argue the need to make a profit creates pressure to lower inmates’ standard of care by utilizing less skilled employees, compromising security, rehabilitation; mental health and medical resources for inmates.

The Profit Motive

As news of the business of for-profit prisons become more publicized, some organizations and governments are taking a harder look at private prisons. That does not mean, however, that private prisons are going away anytime soon.

If you have a specific case to discuss, or to learn more about prisons and the criminal justice system, speak to a qualified criminal defense attorney.