Private prison

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This page lists some examples of private punishment and private prisons.


In the US, almost every aspect of corrections in publicly run facilities, including food services, counseling, industrial programs, maintenance, security, education, and vocational training, is under contract with private firms on a piecemeal basis. In addition, contracting out for provision and management of entire correctional facilities is common. The Federal Bureau of Prisons contracts out all of its halfway-house operations. In 1985, thirty-two states also had nonsecure, community-based facilities (e.g., halfway houses, group homes, community treatment centers) under contract. In that same year, approximately 34,080 juvenile offenders were held in nearly 1,996 privately run facilities nationwide. The first privately operated high-security institution in recent history was an intensive-treatment unit for juveniles at Weaverville, Pennsylvania, that RCA began running in 1975; by 1983, there were seventy-three privately provided secure juvenile facilities. No privatized secure adult facilities existed yet in 1980, and indeed, no jurisdiction other than perhaps the federal government had express legal authority to contract for such a facility. By the end of 1994, however, about one-half of the states had legislation establishing such legal authority, and all three federal agencies that run prisons had the clear authority to contract out. Privatization of major adult detention facilities began in the early 1980s, when Behavioral Systems Southwest provided a minimum-security Immigration and Naturalization Service prison. This market is expanding rapidly. Corrections Corporation of America, Inc. (CCA), formed in 1983 and now the largest private supplier of secure adult facilities, received a contract from New Mexico to design, finance, construct, and operate a prison for all of the state’s female felons, becoming the first private minimum-through-maximum-security state prison in recent history. In 1994, twenty-one different firms shared eighty contracts for adult prisons with 49,154 total beds.

Imprisonment is only one form of punishment, of course, and many of the alternatives are also contracted out (e.g., drug treatment programs). [1]

Private dispute resolution and punishment

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company estimates that one-third of all business failures are caused by employee theft. Presumably, these thefts are prosecutable, but police give them little attention, as the public-sector criminal justice system tends to be "unsympathetic to business losses due to crime". Hence, the crime investigated most frequently by security personnel in business organizations is employee theft, and the majority of security managers for business firms report that these crimes (and most other crimes by employees) are most often totally resolved "within the organization"—close to half of all employee thefts are resolved internally; most of the rest are solved through internal investigations followed by direct contact with a public prosecutor, thus bypassing public police. Indeed, within business organizations, "private justice may exert far greater control on citizens than the criminal justice system itself". The process may be formal, involving internal disciplinary bodies, boards, or panels, or informal, with confrontations and "negotiation" between security personnel or managers and accused offenders. Resulting sanctions include dismissal, suspension without pay, transfer, job reassignment or redesign to eliminate some duties, denial of subsequent advancement, and restitution agreements.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bruce L. Benson. "Crime Control Through Private Enterprise" (pdf), The Independent Review, v.II, n.3, Winter 1998, ISSN 1086-1653, Copyright © 1997, pp. 341–371. Referenced 2013-02-12.