Essay on the Challenge of Privatized Prisons

Published: 2021/11/22
Number of words: 2557

Over the past years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), under the Justice Department, has embarked on the privatization of prisons, by issuing contracts to interested companies. A privatized prison refers to a place where criminals are imprisoned by a third party, that has been awarded a contract by the government, as indicated above. These third parties are referred to as private prison companies and are paid monthly rates or per diem for each prisoner or for the facilities they provide. By 2018, about 11 private prison companies had been awarded the contract by the government in different areas such as Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Michigan among others (Federal Bureau of Prisons, n. d.). In recent times, President Joe Biden has issued an executive order that stopped the renewing of contracts with private prisons. This is an indication that private prisons have presented challenges for the prison system and the government of the United States. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to assess the challenges of private prisons and the solutions that can be put in place to make them more effective. It will also suggest a communication plan for informing internal and external stakeholders about the proposed changes.

Theory and Methods

Criminology Theories

Different criminology theories can be used in explaining the challenges of privatized prisons in the United States. The positivist school of thought is based on the assumption that criminal behavior results from internal and external factors that cannot be controlled by an individual (Akers, 2013). According to psychological positivism, criminals engage in different acts due to the internal factors that are driving them. Such internal factors include drug problems and abusive relationships that are rampant in private prisons (Akers, 2013). On the other hand, social positivism is based on the assumption that criminals are produced by society. As will be indicated in the analysis, individuals in private prisons have higher rates of recidivism. This implies that private prisons have contributed to an increase in crime in society. The notion of criminal personality is based on the assumption that individuals have traits that dispose them to crime (Akers, 2013). Such traits include anti-social tendencies, aggressive behaviors, and neuroticism. Evidence has shown that these traits have been aggravated by the existence of private prisons. The view of differential association indicates that crime can be learned through association (Akers, 2013). This will explain why there are higher rates of recidivism in private prisons.

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Strategic Methods

Over the past years, leaders have applied different strategic methods to resolve the challenges that have been experienced in privatized prisons. In Illinois and New York, the state governments banned the privatization of local and state prisons (Austin & Coventry, 2011). Other areas that have banned the privatization of prisons include Louisiana and California. In Wisconsin, the government banned the speculative construction of private prisons (Austin & Coventry, 2011). This was based on the fact that private prison companies were building new prisons, in anticipation of being awarded contracts by the government. In Oregon and North Dakota, leaders have taken the initiative of banning the importation and exportation of prisoners (Austin & Coventry, 2011). This is aimed at maintaining control of the prisons and ensuring that they have provided high-quality services. In New Mexico, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, leaders have required private prisons to maintain standards that are the same as those of state prisons (Austin & Coventry, 2011). Therefore, most leaders have called for the banning of prisons or the improvement of their quality standards.

Best Practices

There are best practices in the field for communicating with diverse audiences, and which will support the communication plan that will be suggested in this research. Verbal communication is one of the most effective ways of communicating. It involves both written and spoken words and includes emails, memorandum, reports, and directives among others (Sage Publications, 2019). Verbal communication is important in conveying messages and information about the operations of an agency or department. In the community, verbal communication is used to persuade and inform. An example of verbal communication that has been used before is KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) (Sage Publications, 2019). This ensures that the correct message is delivered to the public. There are also nonverbal components of communication that have been effective in conveying messages to diverse audiences. They include body language, voice, and proxemics (Sage Publications, 2019). Non-verbal communication has been used in understanding communication differences between males and females. Another important factor in communication is the consideration of formal and informal communication flows (Sage Publications, 2019). This ensures that while the chain of command is followed, everyone in the community is considered.

Literature Review

Data Analysis

Over the past years, the number of prisoners in the United States has continued to increase. For example, in 2016, there was an average of 130 inmates in a correctional facility in the United States (Southern New Hampshire University, n. d.). However, there was only three prison staff to serve them. This shows why private prisons were considered in the first place in the United States. Apart from this, data shows that prison staff has been exposed to several challenges in their interactions with inmates. In this particular facility in 2016, 99 staff experienced disturbance, 45 violence, and 12 used force (Southern New Hampshire University, n. d.). These are among the challenges experienced in private prisons. By 2016, 8.5% of the prison population of over 128,000 were incarcerated in private prisons. Evidence shows that from 2000 to 2016, the number of individuals incarcerated in private prisons has increased five times (Gotsch & Basti, 2018). This implies that there has been a high demand for private prisons. Further, statistics have shown that there are high recidivism rates in private prisons. Evidence shows that about 50% of incarcerated individuals in private prisons are re-arrested within three years of being released (Gotsch & Basti, 2018). This is despite the large amounts of money that are invested in private prisons. The data above proves that there are many challenges in operating private prisons.


Over the past years, there has been an increased call for the closure of private prisons. One reason that has led to this is the limited resources to support the large prison population. For example, in Torrance County Detention Center, there are about 580 prisoners (Gotsch & Basti, 2018). The prison did not have enough beds to contain the prisoners and the staff. As a result of this, it has been forced to shut down. This has been the same trend in other states and is also a decision that has been made by the federal government. The cost of running private prisons is an issue that has been considered in the United States. Evidence has shown that the cost of running private prisons is higher when compared to public prisons (Gotsch & Basti, 2018). As a result of this, there has been a call by the federal government to eliminate the use of private prisons in states and localities. Staffing levels have also been indicated to be low in private prison facilities. This has led to increased issues of escape and violence (Gotsch & Basti, 2018). As a result of this, there has been a call to increase the number of staff in private prisons and provide them with maximum training to properly manage the inmates. Corruption in private prisons is another issue that has been considered in analyzing the operations of private prisons.

Root Causes

Based on data analysis and research, there are different challenges of privatized prisons in the United States. The first challenge relates to the cost of running private prisons. While it has been indicated that private prisons are cost-efficient, evidence has shown otherwise. Research conducted by the U. S. General Accounting Office and the University of Utah indicates that the utilization of private prisons does not save any costs for the government (Gotsch & Basti, 2018). In states such as Arizona and Ohio, there has been evidence that the government has not saved any money as a result of contracting private prison companies. The second challenge regards the safety and the quality of services that are provided in private prisons. Evidence has shown that there has been a conflict between making profits and ensuring the safety of the inmates and the provision of quality services (Gotsch & Basti, 2018). For example, labor costs account for 70% of the annual budget. As a result of this, only a small amount is directed to maintaining safety and quality. Cases of mistreatment and abuse of prisoners have been high in private prisons. This has been caused by the understaffing problem (Gotsch & Basti, 2019). Limited accountability and lack of government oversight have been some of the reasons for the challenges that are experienced in private prisons. The desire to generate profits as opposed to serving the needs of prisoners has also increased the challenges of private prisons. Limited government regulation and lack of transparency have led to increased corruption in the management of private prisons. Such causes have been the reasons for the increased call to shut down private prisons.



Over the past years, the United States has experienced an increase in the prison population. However, recently, there has been a stabilization of the prison population in a reduction in the rates of incarceration. Therefore, based on the theoretical framework, analysis, and research, the most effective solution to the challenges of privatized prisons is the implementation of effective policies by federal, state, and local governments. These policies should focus on the re-examination of the functions and responsibilities of private prison companies. Policies should ensure that private prison companies are held accountable for issues of discrimination, corruption, and the mistreatment of the incarcerated individuals in private prisons. Apart from this, policies should ensure that private prisons are held accountable for poor conditions in prisons. They should be accountable for cases of mismanagement of funds that are paid by the government for taking care of the prisoners. Apart from this, the policies should focus on eliminating profit incentives, that have been at the center of the operations of private prisons. Financial gain should not be above the rehabilitation and safety of the prisoners. It should not be above public interests.

The Bureau of Prisons, under the Department of Justice, has an important role to play in ensuring that the policies by the government are implemented. The bureau should ensure that private prisons implement the same quality standards as public prisons. This should be part of contractual compliance by private prisons. Private prison companies that fail to abide by these standards, should be heavily fined or even shut down. The bureau should eliminate occupancy guarantee provisions, and only consider private prisons after all the public ones have been utilized. The bureau should ensure that all prisoners are treated fairly, irrespective of whether they are in public or private prisons. Further, other alternatives to incarceration should be considered. Various authorities should be formed to ensure that private prisons abide by these policies.


The implementation of the solution will change the situation for the Department of Justice and the community at large. The implementation of contractual obligations will ensure that both inmates and staff are protected by private prison companies. It will ensure that the right number of staff are hired to work in prisons and that the safety of the private prison facilities is improved. The elimination of occupancy guarantee provisions will ensure that private prisons are utilized only when necessary. It will ensure that public prisons are considered before private prisons. This will play a significant role in saving taxpayers’ money. The implementation of the solution will ensure that the constitutional rights of prisoners are upheld. It will ensure that they are treated fairly. This will ensure that recidivism rates are reduced, and this will reduce the level of crime in the community. Further, considering other alternatives to incarceration such as rehabilitation will ensure that prisoners are reintegrated back into the community.

The data analyzed and the trends identified provided information on the challenges that are faced in private prisons. For example, the data indicated that the number of staff serving the prison population is limited. As a result of this, it has caused insecurity issues in private prisons. The data and the trends have indicated that the government can take action to rectify this problem. For example, the government was already in the process of shutting down private prisons. The research has also highlighted some of the causes of the challenges that are experienced in private prisons. For example, research shows that limited government intervention has led to these challenges. Based on the research, it is evident that the government has a significant role to play in ensuring that private prisons act accordingly.

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Communication Plan

The internal audience, in this case, is the members of the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Justice, private prison companies, and the various departments of corrections in different states. The internal audience also includes federal, state, and local governments. Communication about the proposed change will begin with consultations with local and state governments. Once approved, the next step will be to forward the recommendations to the Department of Justice and then to the federal government, which has the mandate of approving the proposal. Once the proposal is approved, there should be communication to the Bureau of Prisons for implementation. Communication from the Bureau of Prisons will then be forwarded to various departments of corrections in different states. Finally, communication will be forwarded to private prison companies before the renewal of contracts. Private prison companies that fail to adhere to the new policies should then be terminated.

The external stakeholders in this case are the public or community members. Communication to the public will be done by the government through different avenues such as television, newspapers, radio, social media, and campaigns. The purpose of communication will be to ensure that members of the public report any cases of misconduct by the private prison companies. Communication will ensure that there is public awareness about the policies that have been implemented by the government. Communication will also target prisoners and allow them to report any cases of misconduct by private prison companies. Communication to external stakeholders will also ensure that the government is accountable to the public, regarding the use of funds. Community leaders and groups will be involved in disseminating the information.


Akers, R. L. (2013). Criminological theories: Introduction and evaluation. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Austin, J. & Coventry, G. (2011). Emerging issues on privatized prisons. U. S. Department of Justice.

Federal Bureau of Prisons (n. d.). Contract prisons.

Gotsch, K. & Basti, V. (2018). Capitalizing on mass incarceration: U. S. growth in private prisons. The Sentencing Project.

Sage Publications (2019). Communication: Words are not enough.

Southern New Hampshire University (n. d.). CJ 675 final project data set.

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