Prisons are institutions that have specifically been designed to handle the members of the society who are under conviction of different crimes. The people who reside in the prisons are referred to as inmates or prisoners and the time they spend in the prisons depends on the imprisonment period. This period is dependent of the intensity of the crime committed. Once in the prisons, the inmates undergo rehabilitation, incapacitation, retribution and deterrence which are elements for considered appropriate for the provision of justice to the society. In the past, it has been the responsibility of the government to manage these institutions on behalf of the society. The increased debate on the privatization of different institutions has seen a debate being launched in regard to the privatization of prisons. This implies that the main purposes of these institutions to the society are shifting from not just maintenance of justice but also as a source of financial wealth. The new advancement is directed at allowing the straightening out of the contemporary faults that exist within the public prisons such as recidivism and overcrowding but there are some people who are opposed to this due to some possible negative results. In short, the process of privatizing the prison industry has both negative and positive effects and this paper seeks to address some of the pros and cons of this exercise Sloane, 1996).
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Privatization though a new concept to be applied in prison department in most of the countries across the globe, there are a few countries who used it in the past. For example during the mid 18th century, the United States government entered into a treaty with a number of private investors to manage a number of its institutions and these investors went ahead to contract inmates to some of their private enterprises as a source of labor. Some of the institutions that were contracted included 'New York Auburn and Louisiana' penal colonies. However, this did not last for long based on the fact that there was rampant corruption that was carried out as well as vicious resistance from other businesses who termed this as some kind of 'unfair' competition that was caused by these workers who were unpaid. Contemporary private prisons are however not the same as these because they operate on new models that are more promising Sloane, 1996).
The Pros on the Prison Privatization Industry
One of the major benefit that privatization of prisons would bring about is cost saving. The cost of crime depends upon relative increase in the rate of crime. The government in different countries spends billions of dollars every year on construction of prisons so as to be able to handle the increasing rates of crime. This is not the only cost based on the fact that guards to guard these inmates need to be recruited as well as other expenses that include; administration, food, health and education costs. It is argued by the majority of proponents of this idea that private companies can operate the prisons at a cost that is far much low than what the government uses and still maintain the quality services that are required. Some of the major reasons that these proponents give in regard the reduced cost are the elimination of bureaucracy, red tape, and the numerous laws that usually makes the costs of managing the prisons to rise in the case of public prisons. Allowing the private sector to manage these institutions will imply that some of the costs that are involved in learning the jail will not be generated from the tax payer's contribution directly and as a result the money may be diverted to other government projects. This will facilitate better utilization of the government's funds to develop the areas that are in serious need of development. Due to the issue of competition privatization there will be increased productivity as well as reduced waste in terms of resources. Studies have revealed that the boarding cost in the private owned prison to reduce to half that of the government owned prisons (Young, 2003). There have been other studies some institutions saved more than twenty percent of the cost incurred in terms of the construction expenses and management costs reducing by 5-15% Sloane, 1996). The cutting down on cost is something that has been criticized heavily by the lobby groups who think that this will lead to the deterioration of the conditions inside these prisons (Smith, 2003).
This is an economical plan that aims at giving back to the society as it serves to preserve justice to the community. According to the economic theory, the problem of financial support towards the running of the prison facilities would go down if there are more available, renting and selling prison cells, the challenges in terms of the funding and efficient allocation of prison space. Privatization of prisons is based on this factor of trying to exploit the opportunities by the introduction of factories adjacent to bars, cost reduction of the costs and give the prisoners the freedom to earn some pay as they give back to the society through the provision of labor. By this, they will be making peace with the society that they infringed some pain in the initial time through committing of crime. Though the public prisons try as much to carry out this exercise, this cannot be compared to the private sector that expresses this in a more profound manner. One way of demonstrating this is what was demonstrated in the United States sometimes ago. There was a time when there were more than one hundred private firms that with more than two thousand prisoners in the manufacturing industry (Young, 2003). These inmates used to manufacture goods with the range of bird feeders, circuit boards, and other related equipments and from the money that was earned through this method, about 56% of it was used to cater for the room and boarding facilities, restitution of the victim, and support of the family. The process also left the inmates with some acquired skills that they could use during their re-integration process that welcomed them back to the society. Having some skills that they could use to earn a living put them in a better position in the society based on the fact that these people were liable of being treated by the community as ex-convicts that may rerun back into crime.
It is also worth noting that the process of privatization may lead to some other new methods of criminal control other than the use of jail to detain people there by denying them freedom. One method can involve methods of detaining criminals within their dwelling by the use of new technology such as surveillance through small devices worn on the body such as bracelets or the electronic monitoring. It is however worth to note that such methods would cause some greater concern of the general public based on the fact that some would question whether the method would be effective in ensuring that crime is contained in the society (Smith, 2003).
In short the privatization of the prison industry would have a lot of benefits as mentioned in the points that have been stated above. The financial benefits, well being of the prisoner, security gains, and answerability among other factors might be used by the proposers of this system to ensure that the majority of the prisons are privatized so as to improve this important institution that ensures the execution of justice in a given country.
The concept of privatization is indeed a very bright idea that has so many advantages though the issue needs to be put under more scrutiny to be able to get to the bottom of some of the positive features that have been mentioned in this paper. This is a concept that has the potential of flourishing if given the attention it deserves to ensure that the social interests come before the urge to maximize profits by the corporations that have been contracted to set up the private institutions. It is also worth noting that each of the positive points that have been presented in favor of privatization, an equal amount of disproof as a means of counteract or frustrate this should be expected as it is the case for the public prisons. This is because in each debate regarding an issue that will touch on the welfare of the society there are those who are behind its implementation and there are those who solidly oppose such an issue; this is a good example of this kind of a topic (Young, 2003).
The Cons on the Prison Privatization Industry
It is obvious that the main motive behind privatization is the profit. This is one of the major issues that can lead to a conflict of interest. It should be noted that prisons not only serve to separate the criminal from the rest of the society and give them punishment, it is also the duty and responsibility of the people in charge of the prisons to ensure that the criminals go through a rehabilitation process to ensure that that the recidivism rate is highly reduced based on the fact that it is very risky to relapse to the earlier behavior. Though the private prisons are cheaper than the public, they are not as efficient based on the fact that obtaining profits through the management of a prison would mean that rehabilitation programs, medical care, food and the hiring costs will be reduced at the expense of the welfare of the inmates. As a result, there high chances that the inmates will be underfed, experience poor living conditions, lack the rehabilitation guidance and be supervised by inexperienced and unskillful officers. James Austin who was an analyst conducted a survey in regard to the welfare of the inmates in some of these prisons and the results he obtained spoke volume of the kind of experiences that the inmates had to cope up with. One of the discoveries he made was that there was 49% more assaults on inmates by staff and 65% more assaults by inmates in the private run facilities than in the facilities that were learn by the government. This is one of factor that indicates that these private prisons are not that efficient when it comes to their performance (Smith, 2003).
Another report that was conducted in England indicated that that the privatized prisons had bad scores in terms of the security and management based on the fact that there was failure in containing drugs, severe assaults and intentional criminal activity in the prisons. In addition, there are poor payments as well as working conditions in the private prisons as compared to the public prisons and this is the reason why there is high turnover in the public prisons as compared to the private prisons (Sloane, 1996).
It is also worth noting that privatization brings about lack of transparency in the prisons department. Public prisons have high degrees of transparency as compared to the private prisons. Despite having low transparency, the private prisons are also hard to legalize, scrutinize and bleaching of the contractual agreements are common and hard to detect and resolve. In short, the public prisons can be scrutinized easily by the public unlike the private prisons where public scrutiny cannot be assured due to the operation contracts that are usually confidential causing a serious failure in terms of accountability.
Finally, this issue that seems to contradict the traditions that have been used for a long time by different countries in regard to the state responsibility. There are functions that have been known for a long time to belong to the government and not to private developers since they are considered to belong to the class of the state responsibility to its citizens and one of this is the national defense. This is one thing that goes hand in hand with the protection of the public against crime and one of the major methods of doing this is the prison department and as a result, this department should be managed by the government of the particular country (Sloane, 1996). Furthermore the act of administering punishment needs to be delivered by a body with high authority for it to be effective and this can only be the government towards is citizens who have indulged into criminal activities. As a result the ruthlessness of the punishment impacted by imprisonment or the denial of freedom needs to be executed by the government which is the sole representative of the society and not some individuals from the private sector (Young, 2003).
Privatization has also received some critics in regard the issue of 'low-balling'. This is a system or a trick that played by contractors on the government. They under bid their fellow competitors with the aim of winning the tender and once they have won the tender, the costs are increased to very outrageous figures. The worst thing is that the competitors stand a chance of learning into bankruptcy, a situation that can leave the government in a positional that does not have any correctional capability. If this is introduced in the prison sector, this would mean that such an important section of the ensuring justice in the country would have some technical hitches and provision of poor facilities, a thing that would make this body loose its purpose (Logan,1990).
Despite the system having some advantages, there are a good number of disadvantages that may hinder the process of privatization in a given country. Some of the arguments presented by a section of scholars may not hold water but there are some arguments against privatization that should really be put into consideration for the sake of the welfare of the citizens who should be the first priority of any government (Sloane, 1996). Morality is a very important virtue and based on the fact that there are some aspects of privatization that undermine this value, it is a matter that needs to be deliberated deeply. It is also questionable as to whether the issue of morality and the society peer responsibility as well as the ultimate should be left to the hands of people whose major motive is to maximize profits and search of financial gains. This is an issue that makes the society to appear as if it is no longer guided by morals but rather by greed for money and opportunistic advocacy (Alter, 2010).