Some readings on the economics of private prisons

Here is a Brookings Institution report:  “The 2016 Nobel prize-winner in Economics, Oliver Hart, and coauthors explained that prison contracts tend to induce the wrong incentives by focusing on specific tasks such as accreditation requirements and hours of staff training rather than outcomes, and noted the failure of most contracts to address excessive use of force and quality of personnel in particular.”

A Wharton student blog briefing: “Today private prisons house about 126,000 federal and state inmates. Orders issued under the Obama Administration to phase out the use of private prisons are now being reversed under the Trump Administration, which has caused some debates over the efficacy of private prisons to resurface.”

Briefing from The Sentencing Project: “In 1996, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) looked at four state-funded studies and one commissioned by the federal government assessing the cost benefits of private prisons. The outcomes of the research varied, leading the authors to conclude that “…these studies do not offer substantial evidence that savings have occurred.”) Similar conclusions were reached in a 2009 meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Utah that looked at eight cost comparison studies resulting in vastly different conclusions. The analysis led the researchers to state, “…prison privatization provides neither a clear advantage nor disadvantage compared to publicly managed prisons” and that “…cost savings from privatization are not guaranteed.”)”

From The Nation: “Hedging their bets in light of significant sentencing reforms sweeping the country, Geo Group and CoreCivic are diversifying into running reentry programs, halfway houses, drug-treatment centers, electronic-monitoring companies, and providing an ever-growing list of services to those who are part of the criminal-justice system. In fact, GEO Group boasts on its website that it “is the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services with 98 facilities, approximately 87,000 beds, and 20,500 employees around the globe.””

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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