Florida Benefitting from Prison Privatization

Applying competition to corrections delivers cost savings, accountability

Perhaps privatized prisons just doesn’t work,” (Jan. 12) gets it wrong. The article naively pretends state-run prisons are utopias free of threats, contraband, and medical problems. That’s ludicrous. Who audits government-run prisons? The government. The watchmen are evaluating themselves, which is an obvious conflict of interest and one of the reasons private prisons get more scrutiny. They don’t get to grade themselves.

Had the legislature sought to tally deficiencies in public prisons, they surely would have identified many. And unlike private prisons, government correctional agencies cannot be fired or fined for underperformance. This accountability is one reason private prisons are better for taxpayers.

Prison privatization has a long track record of success in Florida and elsewhere, most recently highlighted in a new Vanderbilt University study which shows states can save up to $15 million a year through public-private partnerships in prisons. Rigorous contract monitoring and oversight are essential, and the new OPPAGA report for the legislature offers excellent ideas for improvement.

Private prisons are playing a critical role in helping Florida deliver quality correctional services and programming and easing the financial burden on the state – which during this recession and economic crisis is more important now than ever.

Leonard Gilroy
Director of Government Reform, Reason Foundation
Los Angeles, CA