The Public Private Prison Debate Essay

2472 words - 10 pages

California is suffering from a crisis in the prison system. Its facilities are operating at double capacity and " grossly deficient medical care" is the cause of at least one inmate death per week (Wood, 2008, para. 2). Because of this need for reform, the federal government is stepping in to direct the state prison’s operating procedure. Although the financial choices of each state should be free from federal control, the federal government is still known to put pressure on states to make decisions, especially when lawsuits arise. An example of federal legislation commanding state behavior is busing. The states felt that they should have the autonomy to decide whether racial integration was right for them. The federal government, however, decided in Brown v Board of Education that segregation was unconstitutional, and thus the state governments were forced to comply. In a federal system of government, each level holds its own powers, but one must prevail in cases of disagreement. In America, the federal sector is the "supreme Law of the Land" (U.S. Constitution). For this reason, although California suffers from a $16 billion budget deficit, the federal pressures have forced yet another $7 billion in spending to ensure "upgraded healthcare facilities for prison inmates" (Wood, 2008, para. 1).
The National Association of State Budget Officers expenditure report from the fiscal year 2009 states that 5% of state spending, about $48 billion annually, supports corrections (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2011). The federal government is spending 1.8% of our tax dollars on prisons (Frugal Dad, 2011), which amounts to about $45 billion (Williams, 2009). So, it seems that the states and federal government are sharing the burden fairly equally, however, that federal amount is being split between fifty states, meaning that in each state the federal contribution is actually less than two percent of the total prison expense. Because of this fiscal pressure, governments are looking for alternatives to the public prison system. The predominant idea for reformation is privatization of prisons. Journals abound with responses to this idea including Ph.D. Gaes’s article in the National Institute of Justice Journal, L. Beaty’s article in The Case Journal, and R. Culp’s article in the Criminal Justice Policy Review.
In Gaes’s article, his problem with the decision to transfer prisons into private hands is the lack of concrete evidence whether the concept is actually a means of savings or not. His point is that the studies that have been done bear completely different results, causing a discrepancy about actual savings. His example illustrates two different studies, one conducted by the Abt and another by the BOP. The Abt used actual figures from a public prison that was much smaller than the private prison in question. In doing so, the numbers were slanted towards favoring the privatization of prisons, as they were able to save more money per inmate by...

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