Issues Surrounding the Involvement of the Private Sector In the Prison Industry Essay


            The purpose of the forthcoming research is to provide information regarding the privatization of American prisons. The research can be paralleled to both fictional and real arguments as to the nature and purpose of why the prison system is steadily becoming privatized and why it should remain government-run. Both arguments will assist the reader in formulating an opinions as to the reasoning behind the importance in the American prison system remaining government –run.

Issues Surrounding the Involvement of the Private Sector In the Prison Industry

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            In 1979 Congress enacted the Prison Industry Enactment which allowed for pilot projects into the use of private sectors to house criminal inmates in private penitentiaries. This piece of legislation placed the government-run prisons across the U.S into an industry that revolutionized the way in which prisons are now run. However, issues involving the private sector in a government-based institution do come to light upon care consideration.

            When the 1979 legislation was passed through Congress, it opened the gate for the private sector to come into “the business of prisons.” However, Dr. Jill McCorkel worded one of the primary issues perfectly when she addressed the agendas of the prison industry, “the goals of private enterprise and of running an efficient and safe prison are by no means complementary.” (McCorkel 1) Also, an episode of Boston Legal aired not too long ago addressing the privatization of the prison industry. In the episode a 15 year old girl had been adjudicated to serve time in a privately run juvenile detention facility. During her incarceration, she was raped by the guard assigned to her area and sued the company in response. The CEO of the company that owned the facility on direct examination during the trial provided the following responses to his attorney’s questions: Attorney: But just to be clear, you’re in this for profit, right? CEO: Yes. We’re for profit. We’re a business. There’s nothing wrong with capitalism. Just the opposite: public prisons are weighed down with bureaucracy. They have archaic civil service rules that they have to go by. We don’t. We’ve streamlined the entire process, right from construction, all the way to human resources. We’ve even eliminated all the red tape. Simply put: We can build a better prison for less money, and we do. ( This is a prime example of how the private industry feels as though they are assisting the American system of corrections. However, the archaic rules and the bureaucracy the CEO refers to are all emplaced for a reason; safety and care.

Furthermore, an episode of an educational classroom series called Our Constitution: A Conversation. In the episode Justice Breyer and O’Connor were sitting with a class full of juniors who were asking questions regarding the government and the Constitution. One student asked the following question: Do you think that if today we made a new Constitution, or the founders wrote the Constitution today, considering how much power the president and the executive branch has gained, do you think they would place more limitations or define better what is separating the powers? At the end of Justice Breyer’s answer, he summed-up the idea of corrections without even knowing it: … the fundamental idea is nobody gets too powerful. That’s why we set up the system where we divide the power into pockets. That’s an inefficient system, but it is a system that protects against one small group of people gaining all the power. (emphasis added).

Therefore the argument to be made from that program remains simple; the prison systems in the U.S. are not run in the most efficient manner, but neither is the entire federal government and that’s okay with the Supreme Court. An inefficient system was emplaced for a reason; prisoner rights and safety concerns. Turning over a governmental entity sends the message of surrender and non-interest from the government.


(2008). Boston Legal Scripts. Retrieved October 22, 2008, from Boston Legal fan Site Web site:

McCorkel, J. A. , 2006-07-06 “Privatization and the New Penology: Punishment and Profit in the “Public”       Prison” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association.