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What are the advantages and disadvantages of privatizing correctional institutions?

Briefly discuss whether you generally believe that society’s current trend towards emphasizing punishment rather than rehabilitation in the context of prisons, jails and community corrections is desirable

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  • Privately-operated correctional facilities can save the taxpayer considerable sums of money. Private firms have to compete in the market place to be successful, and so are better able than the public sector to understand the importance of providing value for money.
  • Private firms are more likely to think outside of the box, as it were, to develop more innovative solutions to the problems that have plagued correctional institutions for decades. They have a greater understanding of risk than the public sector, and are therefore better able to pursue new strategies, new ways of thinking.


  • The provision of prisons and other correctional facilities is one of the primary functions of the state. As such, it should be provided for the public good and not for private profit.
  • There's an accountability problem with privately-run correctional facilities. Private companies are answerable to their shareholders, not to the members of the public whose interests they are ultimately supposed to be serving.
  • In order to make a profit, private companies often need to cut costs right down to the bone. In the context of running correctional facilities, this can have dangerous consequences. Not only can the health and welfare needs of prisoners be jeopardized by cost-cutting measures, but also the safety of correctional officers. Without adequate funding, correctional officers can often find themselves forced to deal with angry, restless felons in prisons that are chronically overcrowded and short-staffed.
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These are two subjects -- private vs, public, and punishment vs, correction.  They go together in this way:  Private prison systems have a chance of breaking the imbalance now prevalent in publicly managed systems.  The "public" always wants more punishment. out of fear and vengeance, both negative human impulses.  Private prisons have a chance to concentrate on reducing recidivism rates, inventing rehabilation programs, improving social prison structures, and otherwise avoiding the bureaucratic red tape of the present system, and of improving guard-prisoner antagonisms and of conducting social experiments toward more benevolent systems.  One suggestion has been to replace guards with phychologists.

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