Abstract

The issue of private prisons is hectic due to the controversy surrounding it; thus, some support the privatization of jails while others oppose the move. The researcher aims at conducting a library study to synthesize information from different scholars to examine some problems surrounding the correctional department. The research incorporates the advantages of public prisons, namely the safety of prisoners and the conformity to the expectations of rehabilitation. Additionally, the study considers the challenges like overcrowding and the impacts of bureaucracies. Further, researcher focuses on the merits of private prisons, including cost savings and the provision of high-quality services. The challenges, however, are low bed occupancy, failure to meet the contract terms, and the risk of bankruptcy. The research finally considers issues that need adjustment before the privatization of prisons. They include ethical issues, human rights, the authority of public officials, a level of training of the jail staff, availability of information to the public, regulations governing the performance, bidding rules, and the laws against the selection of inmates.

Privatization of Correctional Services

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The correctional department is a part of the larger criminal justice system that comprises some government processes and agencies to reduce the crime rate and punish the lawbreakers. The United States has many systems of the kind that work according to the individual state laws and jurisdiction. The system exists at the state level and deals with crimes occurring on the territory of different states. At the same time, the federal system deals with crimes committed in multiple states, at the international level, or cases which involve the federal property. Apart from the correctional departments, the criminal justice system includes law enforcement, prosecution, defense, and the court (The National Center for Victims of Crime, 2012).). The correctional department deals with the incarceration of people convicted by the court for punishment and rehabilitation (Todd, George, & Michael, 2010). In the United States, there are state/federal and private prisons that play the same role in the criminal justice system. However, the situation has remained controversial in the sense that private prisons have been accused of the violation of human rights and the manipulation of justice, among other accusations. It is, therefore, hard to reach a consensus as to whether these prisons are justified or not. Thus, this research seeks to address the issue through analyzing the relevant information.

Arguments for Public Jails

Conformity to the Expectations of Rehabilitation

Public prisons are government-owned. They serve the purpose of rehabilitating prisoners with the aim of controlling crime as opposed to making the profit as in the case of private prisons where the management concentrates much on a maximization of profit. Public prisons are the best solution for rehabilitation to prevent the manipulation of justice by private firms to fill their prisons (Kroll, 2013), which necessitates the management of prisons by the government.

Safety

Prisoners are safer in public prisons as opposed to private ones. The reason is that there is no mistreatment, exploitation, or violation of their rights. On the contrary, in private prisons, the management is driven by the selfish gains as opposed to the collective gains of prisoners, the government, and the prison owner (Peterson, 2011). Hence, the safety of detainees is a reason prisons should remain in the hands of the public.

Arguments for Privatization of Prisons

The Cost Factor

Private prisons save the costs of incarceration due to the full utilization of the capacity of their facilities. They have policies regarding bed occupancy, which, combined with the flexibilities in decision-making, facilitates the accommodation of prisoners from other jurisdictions to fill the excess space, thus lowering the cost-per-inmate operation (Moore, 1998). It is, therefore, wise to privatize prisons to ease the taxpayers' burden.

Quality of Services

Due to the competition between different firms, innovation, and efficient management practices, private prisons offer excellent services to inmates, hence improving the welfare and comfort of prisoners compared to public prisons (Moore, 1998). Thus, for better quality services and protection for convicts, it is important for the government to privatize prisons.

Potential Challenges for Private Prisons

The Risk of Bankruptcy

By being a private business, private prisons are subject to mishandling and business eventualities that may lead to the closure of the business, thus causing a standstill which could hurt the criminal justice system. However, there are several solutions to the problem, including performance bond, insurance, and takeover or acquisition by another firm (Moore, 1998).

Failure to Meet the Contract Terms

Before the government hands the incarceration duty to private companies, there is a set of conditions, which acts as the basis for qualification. However, due to the challenges in the commercial sector, private prisons may violate or be unable to maintain compliance with the terms, thus exposing the correctional facilities to the risk of closure (Moore, 1998).

Low Bed Occupancy

As a private business, private prisons are profit oriented, and thus they endeavor to lower the operating costs to maximize the profit. Therefore, low bed occupancy implies the underutilization of the prison capacity, hence making prisons capable of attracting losses. However, prisons can make arrangements to admit prisoners from other jurisdictions to fill the excess space to avert losses (Moore, 1998).

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Challenges in Public Prisons

Overcrowding

There is an increase in the number of inmates in the United States, thus facilitating the need for expansion of facilities or the construction of new ones. However, the government is under pressure to reduce spending; therefore, it may be difficult for it to fund the building of more prisons. The condition may force public prisons to strain their capacity by admitting more prisoners than they can handle (Moore, 1998).

Bureaucracies

Public prisons face the challenges of the lengthy formal processes involved in public decision-making, thus making it hard to operate. For instance, while it can take a government one and a half or two years to construct a prison, a private company can build the same in considerably less time (Moore, 1998). These bureaucracies do not affect only prisons overcrowding but also other spheres.

Issues to Address before Privatizing Prisons

Ethical Issues

Private prisons are businesses driven by the "profit motive," which raises the question as to whether prisons are good. Nevertheless, they cannot operate under loss and, therefore should endeavor to maximize profits. To balance the needs and interests of all the parties involved, government officials, human right groups, and other stakeholders should act as a watchdog to ensure proper treatment of prisoners, which may necessitate impromptu visits to assess the conditions of the premises and the inhabitants (Moore, 1998).

The Human Rights Issue

There are claims of severe flogging, sexual assaults, and fights between inmates that are fueled by prison officials in private jails. Another problem is making prisoners overwork in commercial labor while underpaying them or giving them short sleeping time. It is, therefore, appropriate for the government to create policies against such practices to tame rogue prison authorities (Moore, 1998).

Control of Private Prisoners by Public Officers

The contracts awarding private companies with correctional responsibilities should give public officials a high level of control of private prisons in aspects such as the budget and legal requirements among others. Hence, officers should monitor the price of private correctional services and policies. The contracts must give public officers the authority to terminate private prisons in cases of non-compliance or poor performance (Moore, 1998).

Training of Prison Officers

Due to the profit motive and the craving for money, private prison authorities may hire improperly trained personnel to minimize the wage bill, which might greatly compromise the quality of services and the security of the facilities. It is, therefore, appropriate for the government to set proper minimum qualification standards for the personnel employed in these facilities. Moreover, if possible, staff members should be accredited by the relevant professional bodies (Moore, 1998).

Access to Information by the Public

There are many concerns regarding the state of prisoners and the facilities that house them in private prisons. Some of the issues are underfeeding, improper clothing, overcrowding, physical harassment, and lack of appropriate training for prisoners, among others. The government should, therefore, provide policies that make it easy for family members, government departments, and human rights groups to know the status of prisoners to protect them from harm (Moore, 1998).

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Setting of Regulations to Govern the Prisons

The government needs to introduce rules that govern the way prison authorities handle the concerns of prisoners, admission of inmates from other jurisdictions, and the incidences such as escapes. For instance, a private prison in Arizona was accused of taking too long to respond to an occurrence where a couple of prisoners escaped and committed murder (Ortega, 2011). It is, therefore, important for the government to ensure that prison authorities are responsible for their flaws (Moore, 1998).

Laws on Biding of Contracts

Due to the commercial nature of private prisons, it is possible for the management of firms to bid at low prices to win the contract, but later inflate the costs for profit maximization (Moore, 1998). Thus, it is necessary for the government to make sure that the price stipulated in the contract prevails until the expiry of the agreement because private prisons do not help the government to minimize costs of incarceration (Oppel, 2011).

Selection of Inmates

Due to the profit motive, some private prisons tend to reject prisoners who are considered the high value, for instance, the ailing, the elderly, and the maximum security felons (Moore, 1998). Hence, the government needs to formulate laws to compel prisoners to avoid such behaviors and accommodate all detainees. These rules will help to restore sanity in prisons, thus promoting the goal of rehabilitation.

Conclusions

There is the controversy surrounding the privatization of prisons, which results in accusations such as the violation of rights and other issues. The advantages of public prisons are the safety of prisoners and the conformity to the expectations of rehabilitation. Nevertheless, the challenges include overcrowding and the impacts of bureaucracies. Private prisons are advantageous due to the cost saving and the provision of high-quality services. The challenges, however, comprise low bed occupancy, failure to meet the contract terms, and the risk of bankruptcy. Among the issues that need adjustment before privatization of prisons, one can name ethical issues, human rights, the authority of public officials, a level of training of the jail staff, availability of information to the public, regulations governing the performance, bidding rules, and the laws against the selection of inmates.

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