One of the biggest challenges that the criminal justice system is faced is the increase in the number of prisoners because of the ‘tough-on-crime policies of the government coupled with a fact that most of the prison and correctional establishments have deteriorated. Past experience have revealed that transferring the management and operation of this to the private sector only created problems even larger than the problem it sought to solve and resolve.
As a public sector correctional administrator, I would not transfer the authority and management over the prison and jail system to the private corrections sector mainly because its management and operations would only be marred by inefficiencies and chaos as shown by past experience. As a private sector correctional facility manager, the prison system must be turned over to the private sector because it can build and rebuilt correctional facilities in a shorter period of time with less bureaucratic red tape, lower and reduced costs for operation, and improved service in terms of quality (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001).
Great challenges face both sectors in redeeming itself in the eye of public perception. For the private sector, in case of re-privatization of the prison system it should prove that it can use the authority and opportunity wisely to uphold the objectives of the criminal justice system for public interest and rehabilitation of the prisoners. On the part of the public sector, it should endeavor to streamline its procurement processes and reduce if not eliminate the bureaucratic red tape in securing allocations or appropriations for funds.
Before re-privatization can be done, there are legal issues that are necessary to be resolved, i. e. whether or not the private sector contractor is allowed to inflict punishment for violations of prison rules or for escaping against erring prisoners and the extent of state responsibility (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001). Criminal Justice Administration The U. S. has been faced with the problems of deteriorating prison and jail facilities as well as the expanding population of prisoners by reason of the ‘get-tough-on-crime’ policy of government (Greene, 2000).
Thus, the concept of establishing prison facilities by the private sector surfaced in the early part of the 1980s. In retrospect, a number of private companies were established and had engaged in a two billion dollar ‘private prison industry’ (Greene, 2000). A few of these private firms flourished and reaped profits (Greene, 2002). One of those which established was a private firm named Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), shares of which increased to $50 million in 1997 and with its stock pegged at $45 per share (Greene, 2002).
As a public sector correctional administrator, I would not transfer the authority and management over the prison and jail system to the private corrections sector mainly because its management and operations would only be marred by inefficiencies and chaos as shown by past experience. The private prison system is based on the profit objective and therefore it has always placed increase in profit above any other consideration such as public service. The fundamental objective for which the correctional prison system is placed in the hands of the public sector is by virtue of its public service and public good ramifications.
“A corporation’s fundamental obligation is to increase its stockholders’ profits, not to increase public safety, to improve prison conditions, or to rehabilitate prisoners” (Greene, 2002). At the beginning the private correctional administration vowed to introduce innovation in management, technology and business administration of the prisons but instead it took under its fold former public corrections veterans who had been eased out of office because of acts amounting to misconduct in office (Greene, 2002).
It should also be pointed out that their management was marked by escapees in prison, violence of the guards and beating the inmates, murder and homicide committed in prison, drug deals were carried out, bribery charges were filed and prison riots transpired (Greene, 2002). In fact a case was even filed in court for beating the youths at the juvenile prisons. The Court, in an action for damages in the case William v. Corrections Corporation of America (2000) ruled that the “use of force so malicious, evil, callous or reckless, and so “repugnant to the conscience of mankind” and awarded 3 million dollars as damages (Greene, 2002).
The results of the prison audit which was conducted revealed that the prison was being controlled by a gang and that the staff supply them drugs for protection. A treatment manager for drug addiction resigned after an attempt persuasion of her by the warden to ‘market’ the idea to a few judges to render decision that would require rehabilitation of offenders in their treatment facility even if it has been shut down earlier as cost saving measure (Greene, 2002). It may be argued that these incidents are isolated and limited only to a few private prison systems.
However based on a research project conducted by James and Coventry in 1999 revealed that there were more assaults both on staff and prisoner-to-prisoner in the private institutions than in public facilities (Greene, 2002). For assaults on staff and co-prisoners, there was a 49% more and a 65% more of assaults in private prisons, respectively (James & Coventry, 1999). It has been observed that the private prisons were characterized and fraught by structural and operational deficiencies such as “defective classification and security procedures; inadequate program services” (Greene, 2002).
There appears to be a high turn over in terms of staffing because the wages in the private sector are much lower than in the public sector. Moreover, effectiveness is lost due to the profit scheme attached to the private sector in operating the prison system (Greene, 2002). In addition the public safety aspect seems to lag considering that there is an increase in the number of escapees from the private prisons compared to the public prisons.
These private prison system also failed in protecting their staff and the public as well as in failed to observe and respect the basic human rights to a “safe and humane correctional environment” (Greene, 2002). Moreover, the staffs were not properly trained and were not able to handle volatile situations in the prisons. Due to the operational and structural deficiencies, the private prison system suffered a financial slump and experienced financial losses. The contracts granted to them were no longer renewed and some were terminated due to non-compliance (Greene, 2002).
In sum, the prison and corrections system should not be turned over to the private sector because past experience taught us that it had been fraught of operational and structural debacles. The proliferation of prisons which are newly constructed paved the way to transferring the prisoners from one prison to the other and away or far from their families. This had a destructive effect on the objectives of criminal justice to promote the rehabilitative treatment of prisoners.
It served as a detriment to the public interest since profit was placed as a primary objective instead of the concern of improving the conditions in the correctional institution and in developing programs that will assist the prisoners in reforming them so that later they could be released back to the society. Moreover, the manner by which the private sector managed the prisons only increased the risk to public order and safety when prisoners escaped and it has shown a poor quality service due to under trained and unprofessional staff which likely became an opportunity to breed corruption.
As a private sector correctional facility manager, the prison system must be turned over to the private sector because it can build and rebuilt correctional facilities in a shorter period of time with less bureaucratic red tape, lower and reduced costs for operation, and improved service in terms of quality (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001). It is reported that the government takes 5 to 6 years in building a new prison facility while the private sector can do it in 2 to 3 years or shorter.
This can be logically explained by the fact that the private sector is not subject to the rigors of time-consuming bidding, pressures from politicians, environmental issues, and relatively accessible source of funding (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001). The private sector has more ease in securing funds through private lenders or investors while the public sector has to depend on budget appropriations from the legislative body or by using government bonds (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001).
Moreover, the consensus of the public is necessary in operating a public facility unlike when it is managed by the private sector, public consultation is not necessary and required. The private sector can provide prison services at a lower cost. Government managed and operated prison and correctional system have higher operational costs. The private sector can augment expenses in terms of “1) number of staff, 2) wages, or 3) fringe benefits” (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001).
Operating a prison is burdened by labor costs due to wages of a labor intensive support to the prison services and most of these workers are unionized therefore it would be difficult to lower their salaries unlike if run by the private sector, having more discretion to fix the salary levels (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001). In addition, the procurement process for supplies of government is cumbersome and therefore, the private sector can secure supplies at a cheaper cost in a shorter period of time.
Anent improved quality service, critics of the public sector-managed prison system contend that the private sector is believed to be more “benevolent and humanistic” so that poor “medical, mental health, education, overcrowding, and protection-from-harm issues” which characterized the public sector can be avoided (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001). Great challenges face both sectors in redeeming itself in the eye of public perception.
For the private sector, in case of re-privatization of the prison system it should prove that it can use the authority and opportunity wisely to uphold the objectives of the criminal justice system for public interest and rehabilitation of the prisoners. It should develop programs for better medical, health, safety and education. It should manage and operate the correctional prison system not primarily due to profit but mainly for public interest thereby becoming more humanistic in handling its affairs.
On the part of the public sector, it should endeavor to streamline its procurement processes and reduce if not eliminate the bureaucratic red tape in securing allocations or appropriations for funds. Albeit its workers and employees are unionized, they should be developed through training and their performance be evaluated strictly. In case privatization occur, the government would have to monitor and regulate the private sector managing and operating the prison system more strictly and render it accountable in cases where performance levels are not met after stringent evaluation.
Before re-privatization can be done, there are legal issues that are necessary to be resolved. The first issue is the legality of delegation and contracting out of a public function to the private sector. The courts have ruled in the affirmative, allowing delegation of public functions to the private sector, however, it holds government accountable for violation and infractions of the constitutional rights of the prisoners (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001).
There are two main issues that are not resolved yet 1) whether or not the private sector contractor is allowed to inflict punishment for violations of prison rules or for escaping against erring prisoners. If it is allowed, it may become an infliction of punishment without due process because of the lack of state oversight and responsibility and if not allowed it lessens the power of the institution to enforce its rules and regulation and 2) the extent of state responsibility (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001).
On the other hand, if allowed but with state oversight, the state and its officials cannot be held liable in an action for monetary damages (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001). Moreover, if the state becomes immune from suit, another issue is would it be responsible to assist the private corporations in cases of financial losses. All these issues need to be resolved first and in detail have to be included in the contracts (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2001). References
Austin, J. and Coventry, G. “Are we better off? : comparing private and public prisons in the United States. ” Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Vol. II, No. 2, November 1999. Bureau of Justice Assistance, U. S. Department of Justice. Emerging issues on privatized prisons (2001). National Criminal Justice Reference Service web site. Retrieved on Mat 15, 2008, from http://www. ncjrs. gov/txtfiles1/bja/181249. txt Greene, J. Prison privatization: recent developments in the U.
S. (2000), Economic Policy Institute web site. Retrieved on May 13, 2008, from http://archive. epinet. org/real_media/010111/materials/greene2. pdf Greene, J. and edited by Maurer, M and Chesney-Lind, M. Entrepreneurial corrections: incarceration as a business opportunity. Published in Invisible Punishment, New York: The New Press, 2002. Retrieved on May 13, 2008, from http://www. justicestrategies. net/Judy/EntrepreneurialCorrections. pdf