Study: Private Prisons Do Not Result In Cost Savings And Are Less Secure

by Ben Hoffman

Research to date has concluded that there is little evidence that privatization of prisons results in significant public savings. In a 1996 General Accounting Office (GAO) review of several comparative studies on private versus public prisons, researchers acknowledged, “because the studies reported little difference and/or mixed results in comparing private and public facilities, we could not conclude whether privatization saved money.” A study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) released in 2001 had similar conclusions, stating that “rather than the projected 20-percent savings, the average saving from privatization was only 1 percent”8 and “the promises of 20-percent savings in operational costs have simply not materialized.”

More problematic is the BJA study’s further assertion that “the rate of major incidents is higher at private facilities than at public facilities.” A survey of the prison industry conducted by analyst James Austin also found 49% more inmate on staff assaults and 65% more inmate on inmate assaults occurred in private minimum and medium security facilities than in comparable publicly run facilities. Read more…


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