Points to a problem with private jails ‘cherry-picking’ healthy and easy prisoners and leaving state facilities with more difficult and costly inmates.
Phoenix (25 May 2011) – As legislators across the US and in Canada look to trim their budgets, one option that many look to is privatizing their correctional facilities. Research out of the Arizona Department of Corrections should give them pause to rethink.
In one of the most extensive comparisons of private versus public correctional facilities, the state department found little to no savings in cost between the two.
In addition, it found a troublesome tendency for the private facilities to house only the easiest and most inexpensive prisoners and leave the rest for the state jails.
State Representative Chad Campbell, leader of the House Democrats, told the media that it is “cherry-picking… They leave the most expensive prisoners with taxpayers and take the easy prisoners.”
Inmates screened out of the private facilities include those with mental health problems, health concerns and serious criminal backgrounds.
The research contradicts privatization advocates' claims that private sector approaches will deliver cost-savings to corrections. Arizona’s findings echo the findings of many studies conducted internationally.
Canada’s only privately run prison was returned to the control of the province of Ontario in 2006 after a review of the contract found little benefit to the arrangement.
Still, there remains fears in some jurisdictions, particularly federally, that prison privatization is on the agenda of politicians.
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