What does “Privatization of Prisons” mean? 

Last week, I introduced the overall idea of privatization of prisons. However, after posting, I realized I wasn’t even sure what that meant, exactly. After minimal searching, I found a very helpful article on how privatization of prisons started and what has come of it.

In the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. prison system began to grow in power and size. More things were being labeled as crimes that entail prison time. Prisons became places to dump all kinds of people: mentally ill, physically ill, economically challenged, etc. Eventually, the prison systems ran out of money and the people would not vote to give it any more money. Then, in 1984, a group of investors in Tennessee built a prison with the idea to lease out the rooms in the prison for a profit. This would be called the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Since then, the number of private prison facilities has grown to ten percent of all U.S. prisons.

Patch of a security guard at CCA http://www.correctionsproject.com/corrections/pris_priv.htm

The private institutions claim they run the system more efficiently than public institutions and can save public, taxpayer money. However, this comes at the cost of the amenities and conditions that are maintained in the prisons. And, as the intent of these companies is to make a profit, they are not concerned with the living conditions as much as public institutions are.

These institutions continue to grow because they appeal to the members of government. More private institutions means they have less accountability for fewer prisoners. This continued growth leads to more and more prisoners in the U.S. Since 1970, the number of prisoners has risen from 280,000 to 2,000,000 in 2000.

Don’t get me wrong, prison is a necessary aspect of our country. People who are a threat to the rest of society need to be incarcerated for the well-being of everyone else. However, with private prisons just trying to get as many prisoners as possible to maximize profit, it makes me wonder whether all the inmates need or deserve to be there.


Leave comments below with opinions on whether private prisons help or hurt society or any comment you have on them in general.


4 thoughts on “What does “Privatization of Prisons” mean? ”

  1. Ugh this is such a big problem. Privatization of prisons means that there is a fiscal incentive for these companies to want to put people in prison, which accounts for the absurd rise in prisoners in the thirty years from 1970-2000 that you mentioned. I assume that these large corporations are in cahoots with government, which means that law enforcement could be affected as to encourage incarceration for less severe crimes. Certain groups are targeted more than others, which ties into a completely different topic. Super important that you’re writing about this, excited to see what else you’ll say!


    1. In my limited research on the topic, it does seem that government officials are, for the most part, in favor of these private prisons. As mentioned in the article, it gives them less responsibility for the prison conditions and prisoners because they are not in control of those institutions. This is why I chose to mention Bernie Sanders in my first post. He has been outspoken on this topic during his campaign and seems intent on making a change. Also, your point about increased arrests and different groups being targeted is something that I will look into for future posts. Thanks for the comment!


  2. I find it interesting that the prisoner population in our country has jumped nearly 8 fold since 1970, even though the population has only increased by a factor of about 1.5 since this period. It certainly seems as though incarceration for minor infractions is a substantial issue in this country, and I wonder if this signifies that our criminal justice system is failing. Additionally, it does not help that our justice system has such a high recidivism rate, when compared with places like Scandinavia. When repeat offenders end up back in prison, certainly they have broken a law so deserve some form of punishment, but repeated prison sentences for those like minor drug users only detriments them (by taking them away from society, where they truly learn how to build their character) and by placing more burden monetarily on the prison system. What do you think the US could do to reduce the number of inmates and recidivism rates?


    1. First of all, thanks for adding that comment about the population increasing only by a factor of 1.5 compared to 8 in prisons. That’s a very interesting piece of information to add to this post. And, to your question, I think that the emphasis on profits needs to be taken out of the prison system. With monetary gain being the primary goal of these private institutions, it has to be assumed that the percentage of people being sent to prison has been affected by these incentives. Adding to this point, my next post is going introduce two instances where judges were actually paid a significant amount of money to send more teenagers to prison for petty crimes such as DVD theft and trespassing in abandoned buildings. I won’t get into that too much, as I’ll be writing about it tomorrow. So, if you’re interested in this example of corruption of the judiciary system, check out my post tomorrow to get more information.


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