Private Prisons: Success That Has Yet to Be Seen




Short, Megan

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Private prisons have been a hot topic of political debate since their official conception in the late-twentieth century in the United States. The intent behind privatizing a field that has historically been regulated by the government was to reduce budgetary expenditures and improve cost efficiency without sacrificing the quality of these institutions. Since then, private prisons’ abilities to meet those goals have been widely questioned and researched. In this thesis, I review the history of prisons and how privatization was established in the United States. I then analyze the body of research surrounding the quality and cost-effectiveness of the private facilities, and I determine that this research is largely inconclusive regarding the success of private institutions. For private prisons to be useful in the field of crime and punishment, they need to be evidently and undoubtedly superior to their public counterparts. Therefore, I propose that more research needs to be done with greater sample sizes, and this research can only be done if private prisons are legally required to be more forthcoming with their financial records. Until then, it cannot be determined whether private prisons are meeting and/or exceeding their contractual obligations to the government.