Current reform efforts in criminal justice

The US criminal justice system comprise of apprehension, assessment before a judge and correction. Apprehension involves the investigation and arrest of any person who is under suspicion for committing a certain crime. This is duty of police and other agencies concerned with law enforcement. After apprehension, the person goes under the court system. A judge then listens to all the sides of the case and passes judgment. Guilty persons are then put under the correctional process of punishment. Disposition or sentence ranges from fines to imprisonment in a correctional facility (Siegel, 2002).

The US Department for Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2002, the number of inmates incarcerated in jails, federal, private and state prisons was 2033331. In federal prisons there were 151618, 1209640 in state prisons, 6598 in local jails and 6598 in private prisons. This was a big increase compared to the number in those correctional centres in 1990 which totaled 1148702. Rapid swell in the number of inmates resulted from the legislation dubbed ‘Get tough on crime. The subsequent requirements led to overcrowding of correctional facilities and therefore the need to privatize prison facilities (Silverman, 2001).

The US federal agencies, state and local governments are turning to the private sector for correctional facilities because there are tougher policies on crime and constraints on budget that have created problems in the prisons. While there is an increase in the number of prisoners, the government is not willing to construct more prisons to house them. There is also a characteristic increase in overcrowding, lawsuits in addition to court orders. There is also pressure from taxpayers for criminals to be put in prison. The government therefore has to find ways to increase the current capacity of prisons.

Pressure on the latter to cut on spending however makes it difficult to fund the project. The government hence has to consider involving the private sector in correction so as to lower the costs involved and at the same time maintain or improve the quality of services without purring a lot of pressure on the budget. The study therefore looks into the evidence on what the private sector is doing to help the situation. The extent of private prisons The US has undertaken the task of contracting private prisons. There are currently about 120 private prisons in twenty seven of the states of America.

In these 120 prisons, there are an approximate 120000 inmates. The private prisons give services of maximum security as well as medium security (Mitchell, 2003). Pros and cons of using private prisons There is a lot of state money being saved by the private prisons today. The average savings goes to about 10 to 15 on all operational costs. This finding is based on around fourteen studies carried independently by various scholars. Saving on spending is achieved by using innovation and efficient practices of management (Mitchell, 2003).

The private prisons offer services that are no different from those offered in government prisons. This is a finding based on about six independent studies by different scholars. The studies involve quality comparison, rates of American Correctional Association accreditation, termination of contract, lawsuits involving prisoners and correctional officers and recidivism comparison. From all the research done, it is evident that private prisons deliver quality services at a much lower cost than that in government prisons. This is to the advantage of American taxpayers.

When privatization of correctional centres in suggested, the issue raises a lot of questions. These questions have however been solved by experiences of public officials who have contracted for the private services. The contracts look into the contract terms, legislation and best practices. Such questions which are raised on the issue of privatization include whether private correctional officers use force, whether they can manage riots and if they violate the rights of prisoners. In any just society, the only way through which criminals can be put off, punished and rehabilitated is by putting them in prison institutions.

The power of imprisonment has always been granted by society while the direction of the same has been the responsibility of the government bodies. However, the introduction of privatization of institutions in contemporary society has resulted in the development of new trends for the prison institution. The goals of imprisonment have gone beyond deterring, punishing and rehabilitating. Privatization of prisons also aims at gaining financial benefits through the confinement of offenders. The new trend in prisons is intended at smoothing over the faults that are present in the public prisons which include among other things overcrowding.

Nevertheless, despite the clean goal, the move suffers a lot of criticism and resistance from the wider society regarding the abilities it has and the foundation. In the middle of the 19th century, USA contracted many of its institutions to private investors. The investors in turn contracted inmates to other private institutions as labor. A lot of corruption was reported leading to the end of the practice. Other opposing businesses claimed that since this was unpaid labor, there was unjust competition. The current privatization however works at a different level (Logan).

William (1996) posits that the cost of crime increases with increase in criminal activities. There is a high cost on construction of prisons to keep up with the growing population of inmates. This does not include the cost of hiring guards, administrators, health services, education as well as food services. Privatization however takes care of this problem as costs are reduced. The funds to take care of operations are not necessarily got from taxpayers. This makes it possible for the government to direct revenue to other public areas. Private industries permit greater flexibility in management.

His is meant to create a chance for innovation, promotion of staff, expansion and termination of contracts. While public prisons do not keep up with changing technology, or the needs of the inmates and staff, private prisons take advantage of this to reduce riots and outbreaks. Arguing from an economic point of view, the problem of allocation of prison space and funding would be reduced if governments considered the availability of better markets to buy, sell and lease prison cells. Privatization of prisons is structured in such a way that it attempts to exploit the opportunities presented by this idea.

This it does by introducing and establishing factories within the prison walls. They also reduce the costs of the factories and permit those who are condemned to the confines of the prisons to earn money from these factories. The result is that inmates are able to pay their own way. The inmates become productive to the society which they initially offended. The public prisons in America have had this plan working for them where prisoners make motor vehicle plates. They however do not reach the level of private prisons.

Private prisons in America had about 100 firms in 1997 which employed 2400 prisoners for the manufacture of goods. The prisoners retain 56% of the total earnings which they used to pay for the rooms and boarding, family support among other expenses. The skills acquired are also useful upon release (Foucalt, 1977). Privatization can also be useful in generating other ways of controlling criminals besides jails. Private agencies can provide such services as electronic monitoring and surveillance. Prisoners can therefore be detained in their own places of residence (Logan).

Nevertheless, this is also a matter of great debate from the public. Logan goes on to say that though privatization of prisons seems the ultimate solution, there should be great care paid to regulations so that the interests of the society are considered before those of private corporations. Private agencies should not be preoccupied with making money alone but should consider the quality of the services they are providing. For every positive point for the private prison, there would be a negative rebuttal that appears to argue against the benefits of privatization.

To take care of this, private prisons would find it helpful to consider combining the two systems and thereby creating a union in the legal system. Costs, benefits and conflicts of interest in use of private prisons As the John Howard Society of Alberta sates, it is crucial to remain objective in the research of private prisons. Some of those who research private prisons are more interested in supporting their positions of ideology. They have therefore ended up constructing some comparisons to suit their ideologies. These comparisons have little or no analytical perspective or even methodology (Logan, 1990).

This has also led to some people speculating on whether some of these researchers have investments in the private contracting agencies and if they are funded by the agencies. There is question of whether all they are after is personal profit. The ethics of management in the private prisons are sometimes put under scrutiny. It is evident that for the government, the main interest is in reducing the costs of operation in these prisons. However, it is not clear whether some of the contracted agencies put this into consideration in their operations.

Considering the reason for being contracted, the private prisons should be more affordable but on the other hand, they should offer the same quality if not better services. This is what is questioned. Re the agencies really after the best interests of the government and the taxpayer or are they only after their own interests. In one of the researches in private prisons, there was an issue of ethical conduct that involved an inspector for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. This occurred in 1997. The inspector gave the highest ratings for prison standards to Dickens County prison.

After about one month, the inspector confessed that he was contracted as a consultant by a private prison company. The company paid him 42 thousand dollars per year (Schlosser, 1998). Privatization mainly aims at making profits. Some food companies have therefore taken up the responsibility of financial backing to the institutions. Conflict of interest arises. Prisons are aimed at not only punishing but also rehabilitating offenders. This reduces the rate of recidivism. Consequently, Private prisons reduce the supply of customers who produce profits.

The companies should therefore aim at producing ‘prisoners who will continue to pay’ and not those who ‘have already paid their debts to society’ (William, 1996). Private prisons should hence take the option of contracting non-profit groups. According to the Alberta John Howard Society, the continuation of private prisons and the development of policy on privatization of prisons depends on research in this field. Every study however gives a different picture from the last. Recent problems with the use of private prisons Private prisons have been on the limelight for quite some time now.

The scandals have been on the rise. Private prisons have been associated with abuse of prisoners, violence amongst the prisoners, mismanagement and promises made by management that are not kept. The Texas newspaper for instance reported a number of cases in 1990 as follows (Highlights of private prison scandals in Texas): In the Coke County Juvenile Center, several girls were reportedly sexually, physically and mentally abused by the employees. The abusers included a male who had previously been convicted for sexual child abuse. The lawsuit for the man was settled for only 1. 5 million dollars in 1999.

In Brazoria County Detention Centre, guards are reported to have filmed a training video which showed them beating, stun-gunning prisoners and letting dogs loose on naked prisoners from Missouri. The prisoners were later dragged on the ground back to their cells with all the injuries they had sustained. This was in 1997. In Dickens County Correctional Facility in 1997, a company refused to comply with 15 out of the 22 provisions of the contract which had been signed with the Montana state. The violations on prisoners included food service, medical services, transfer of inmates, security at the facility and disciplinary actions.

The report was made by officials at the Montana prison. Besides sexual assault, medical negligence, security and physical abuse, the private prisons have also been accused of deaths and sale of illegal drugs within the prison premises. The CCA present themselves as a cheaper profit prison company as compared to the public prisons. It has however been in pointed at following mayhem and murders that occurred in Youngtown prison, Ohio. The company had to pay 1. 6 million dollars to prisoners in order to settle a lawsuit. The report shows failure on the part of management.

Among the things it has failed at are provision of adequate medical care and control of violence. The company has also had conditions that are below standard which have prompted prisoners to protest. Their employees are also involved in criminal activities like selling illegal drugs to the prisoners. Escapes are also in the list of failures. Most of the problems result from the labor policies in place. Prisons are blue-collar institutions. Such companies like CCA can only therefore sell their services to the government and claim to be cheap is by employing little workforce and paying little.

Spending on training should also be cut down. It is only in this way that they can claim to be cheap and still be in a position to make profit (Keating, 1990). Conclusion Privatization of prisons in America is an issue of controversy. It involves many theoretical as well as practical considerations. The evidence from research on private prisons is not conclusive. This has some implications on the policy makers as well as the researchers. No evidence from research carried out supports the hypothesis that the private prisons are any superior to public prisons where cost is concerned.

In addition sufficient research on the quality of services provided by private prisons as compared to that offered in public prisons in the US lacks. Such services include social amenities and health services. Above all is the appropriateness of the government delegation of punishment services to the private sector whereas criminal justice is a responsibility of the government. Of controversy is the issue of government liability concerning possible abuse of power by the staff in the private prisons.

The government has limited power if any to control this. Obviously, research shows that the government is not justified to delegate these powers to the private sector. Private prisons are not the effective or just response to the origins and results of crime. Moreover, they are not the humane choice. The privatization of prisons could result in deterioration of the services. It could also change the perception of the public concerning the government and the protection of criminals by the constitution which is spelt out in the Charter of 1982.

Researchers have raised concern over whether the government has any intention to hold liability for the abuse of prisoners by the private prisons staff. The government does not need to spend money on handing over the services of criminal punishment to private sectors. Instead, it should focus on expanding the available public prisons which is the real problem. Certainly, the fact that American prisons are overcrowded is not an issue that can be assumed. However, privatization of prisons is not the ultimate solution. It would be more suitable to explore the choices on correctional policies which have necessitated the expansion of prisons.

Instead of the measure that is being taken, it is recommendable that more extensive research be carried out so that the debate is resolved entirely. The American government should also stop the construction of private prisons. The money should instead be put to use in social and community projects and improving operational public prisons. Support programs would also be of use. Reference: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c. 11. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). (1993).

Crime and punishment: 1993 annual report. (Available from Corrections Corporation of America, 102 Woodmont Boulevard, Suite 800, Nashville, Tennessee, 37205). Deitch, Michele. (2003). “Highlights of Private Prison Scandals in Texas. ” Foucault, M. (1977). “Discipline and punishment”, Penguin Books. Keating, J. , Jr. (1990). Public over private: Monitoring the performance of privately operated prisons and jails. In D. Macdonald (Ed. ), Public prisons and the public interest. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. Logan, C. (1997). “Prison Privatization: Objections and Refutations.

” 1 May 2009 http://www. ucc. uconn. edu Mitchell, Matthew. (2003). “The Pros of Privately-Housed Cons: New Evidence on the Cost Savings of Private Prisons. ” Rio Grande Foundation: Tijeras, N. M. Schlosser, E. (1998). The prison-industrial complex. The Atlantic Monthly, 282(6), 51- 77. Siegel, L. J. (2002). Criminology: The Core. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. Silverman, Ira. (2001). Corrections: A Comprehensive View. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. William, A. (1996). “Cost effectiveness and comparisons of private versus public prisons”, Baton Rouge.