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Privatizing Prisons

Updated on November 21, 2014

by Amber Maccione

Privatizing Prisons
Privatizing Prisons | Source

PBS presents Private Prisons Part 1

Government vs. Private Corporations Running Prisons

I don’t feel that private business should be involved in our “discipline” of criminals. Based on my personal opinion, crime deals with laws made by our government. I feel those that have been “disobeyed” should do the “discipline”. For example, if you are a parent, you know your rules and what you would like and wouldn’t like your children doing. When someone comes along and takes that privilege from you by either allowing your children to do something you are against or disciplining your child for you without your permission, it can cause problems. I feel the same is true with our courts, jails, and prisons. Those who have created the rules should handle the discipline because they know best.

As I was watching the PBS videos, I saw that there was evidence that backs up my stance. In the first video, Donna Coma (a law enforcement officer within a state prison as well as a private prison) discussed the difference in safety, turnover, and programs that each provide. She explained that in state prisons, safety is better, turnovers are less, and programs are more effective. She explained by retelling a story about her experience in a private prison that they are not as adequate. She feared for her life and was put in a dangerous situation when back-up didn’t come for thirty minutes and she was left alone with a dangerous inmate. She ended up filing a lawsuit and quitting (PBS Private Prisons 1 2009).

PBS presents Private Prisons Part 2

Should our government contract private corporations to run our prison system?

See results

The other advocate against private prisons is Buffie McFadyen who spoke in the second PBS video. She helps run 9 prisons in Colorado. Her biggest thing was this: how do you expect prison population to decrease if you place a dollar sign on every bed that can be filled? Basically, if your goal is for profit, why would you want prison population to decrease? These points made Coma’s experience come alive. The government was more concerned about reform and lowering the prison population in order to lower taxpayer costs whereas lobbyists for private prisons shoot down these bills because they would prevent the private sector from cashing in on crime (PBS Private Prisons 2 2009).

I understand that with the continuing rising of prison population there is a great need for either the government to build more prisons (which will cost tax payers billions) or for the government to outsource to private organizations (which will lower the cost on tax payers). The issue comes to who will win – the safety and goal of rehabilitating criminals at the cost of tax payers or the profit and savings that can come from outsourcing. Unfortunately, I think money has more weight than reform. If private wins out, I would agree with Gaes in that there needs to be a better way of us “articulating and measuring prison performance” (Gaes 2005). Gaes states, “the better we can define contract performance and the more we can hold prisons accountable” the better private and public prisons will be (Gaes 2005).


Gaes, G. G. (2005, February). Prison privatization in Florida: promise, premise, and performance. Criminology & public policy, 4(1), 83-88. Retrieved from the ProQuest Database in the Ashford Online Library.

(2009, June 19). PBS on private prisons 1 [Video file]. Retrieved from

(2009, June 19). PBS on private prisons 2 [Video file]. Retrieved from

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