The Relative efficiency and effectiveness of private vs. public adult prisons

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

47th Annual Conference of the Western Social Science Association


In recent years the privatization of corrections movement has accelerated. From 1995 to 2000, the number of private adult prisons increased from roughly two dozen to more one-hundred. Today, privately operated prisons hold more than 95,000 state and federal inmates, roughly 7 percent of the total inmate population in the United States. Fueling this trend is the belief that private competitive markets can reduce the costs of incarceration, all the while complying with constitutionally mandated standards of inmate care and custody. However, research comparing the efficiency and effectiveness of private and public prisons has produced mixed results. This study attempts to provide additional insights into the privatization debate. Bivariate and multivariate analyses are used to assess the relative effectiveness of private prisons in maintaining institutional order and providing inmate programming. This study will also explore shifts in the relative performance of private prisons over time.


Corrections – Contracting out; Prison industries; Prison violence; Prisons – Finance; Prisons – Law and legislation; Prisons – Privatization


Law Enforcement and Corrections | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration




Conference held in Alburuerque, New Mexico from April 13-16, 2005.


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