CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, August 26, 2007

California May Be Paving the Way for Private Prisons

From Depending on the outcome of legal challenges, California could be "one of the longtime drivers of growth for the private prison industry," industry analyst Kevin Campbell said.

Until December, the state had not put a medium- or maximum-security prisoner in a private lockup since 1852, when it replaced a private prison ship in San Francisco Bay with California's first public prison, San Quentin.

Private companies say they can build secure prisons faster and cheaper than state governments and are not saddled with the high salaries and pension costs paid by public agencies.

Critics counter that states that use private prisons get what they pay for: Guards are poorly paid and trained, and private prisons experience more escapes and more disciplinary problems than state-run institutions, they contend. And the state is sending away its better-behaved prisoners, they say, making California prisons even more dangerous.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Justice Department, said in a 2001 study that limited research showed that "privately operated prisons function as well as publicly operated prisons." Management problems usually are caused by poorly drafted contracts and poor oversight of private operators by states, the study said.

The public-private dilemma is hitting California head-on -- with corporate America battling the prison guard establishment. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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