SAGE Journal Articles

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LO 21-5

Prison Privatization
Description: Corporations are running many American prisons -- are they putting profits before prisoners?

Abstract: This article explores one interesting finding emerging from early findings of studies comparing private and public prisons in the UK: the relationship between prisoners and staff. These relationships appear to be better in some private prisons than in the public sector, at least during the early years of privatization. After presenting these findings, the authors provide three possible explanations for the positively evaluated prisoner—staff relationships in many private prisons during these early years: first, an intentional focus on relaxed and less formal regimes; second, the distinct balance of power which is the outcome of more powerless and inexperienced staff working in private prisons; and third, the legacy of a punitive atmosphere which still persists in some public sector prisons. While these findings do not constitute an argument in favour of privatization, they provide an opportunity to be less romantic about public sector values and practices, and more circumspect about the dangers of imprisonment more generally.