Private Prisons a Smart Strategy for Kentucky

Letter to the Editor submitted to the Louisville Courier-Journal

The Courier-Journal painted a one-sided view of prison privatization (“Experts question benefits of private prisons,” July 5, 2010) that ignored abundant research demonstrating cost savings and quality improvements.

A 2002 Reason Foundation report reviewed 28 academic and government studies on private prisons and found they saved up to 23% in daily operating costs over comparable government facilities, with 10-15% savings being typical. Remarkably, long-term data compiled by the state of Texas show that cost savings in their private prisons have averaged 15% annually between 1989 and 2008. During that time the average daily cost of operation in private prisons has never exceeded that of their public sector counterparts.

Also, a recent Harvard Law Review article found that private prisons outperform public prisons on most quality indicators.

Moreover, private corrections firms are subject to strong government oversight and are held accountable to the standards set by the government and independent accreditation agencies. They also have strong track records on safety, security and innovative inmate education and treatment programs.

Taxpayers should not be misled. With prison capacity and budgets shrinking, a greater reliance on private prisons would be a sensible strategy for Kentucky.

Leonard GilroyDirector of Government Reform, Reason Foundation