Contracts With Private Prisons Should Prioritize Quality Inmate Service Delivery Over Costs
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Commentary

Contracts With Private Prisons Should Prioritize Quality Inmate Service Delivery Over Costs

A performance-based approach to corrections that prioritizes rehabilitating inmates is gaining momentum in private prisons.

The letter to the editor was submitted to The New York Times.

Prison operators in the public and private sectors face considerable challenges managing corrections facilities, with dangerous prison environments often reflecting budget constraints that pressure agencies to pursue cost savings above all other concerns, including inmate rehabilitation (“Escapes, Riots and Beatings. But States Can’t Seem to Ditch Private Prisons,” April 10, 2018).

While a low-cost commitment can drive poor prison management, more forward-thinking approaches that place quality inmate service delivery over costs are gaining prominence. Effective services, when coupled with a commitment to preparing individuals for life after parole, results in a more inmate-focused corrections system and a more civil society. To that end, New Zealand and Australia recently established prisons that link private operator pay to reducing inmate recidivism, an approach recently adopted by the state of Pennsylvania’s Community Corrections system.

By adopting a forward-thinking, performance-based approach to corrections, agencies can best ensure their criminal justice systems reflect an approach that seeks to rehabilitate inmates into citizens. When agencies neglect inmate outcomes and seek only lowest costs, everyone loses, inmates especially.

Austill Stuart is a policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.