Criminal Justice Administration. Arguments for Keeping the Jails in Public Hands

Criminal Justice Administration 






With the rise of population and the instances of crimes that warrant mandatory imprisonment and confinement, there has been a challenge to the government to manage its correctional facilities. The challenges emanates not only from the high inmates population influx and budget restrictions but also from the emerging challenges and dynamism in the correctional processes that is geared towards need for rehabilitation as opposed to punishments and provision of quality services. As such, there have been several reforms aimed at enhancing the service delivery processes in the correctional facilities such as guidance and counseling , educational, treatments and training. The limited resources and need to offer specialized services efficiently however gave rise to recognition of private correctional facilities as a means to supplement the public based facilitates. The debate however has been based on the legality, efficiency and possible benefits or challenges of such kind of arrangements. As such, the protagonists have based their arguments on whether or not security sensitive services should be privatized and how the possible legal debacles that may rise from a third party liability and failures be handled.

Arguments for Keeping the Jails in Public Hands

The proponents of the public run correctional facilities argue that the arrangement offers the best way to ensue that the set standards are met and maintained. This is because the government is under obligation to ensure that all the policies and laws relation to construction and management of the prison faculties and the related correctional centers are adhered. This may not be forthcoming from the private arrangements where the profit seeking organizations may compromise the standards if not monitored.

Running of the correctional facilities is a duty of the government that is aimed at ensuring public safety and rehabilitation of the offenders to reform and released them back to the society. According to Austin and Coventry (2001), these are responsibilities which only the government can and should meet so as to avoid the possible legal and political backlashes. As such this is an obligation that is continuous, given that the crime rate is on the rise and the prisons getting overcrowded. Since the government cannot cease to exist, it is correct to argue that the correctional facilities should remain under public administration. For example, the bankruptcy of the privately run facilities may lead to a disastrous outcome such as prisoners being left Scot free by protesting employees whose wages have not paid due to financial problems. Though there may be some arrangements with the private sector such as provision of hedges to safeguard against bankruptcy, it is not guaranteed that the corrupt public officials may not conceal the financial status of a private firm. At the same time, Markey failures may result into collapse of the firms such as regulatory weaknesses as the case of the credit crunch in the mortgage industry. At the same time, there are many hidden costs which only the government may be able to deal with such as medical expenses for the prisoners (Raher, 2002). However, the government may not go bankrupt, generally, as it has many ways of raising funds and redistributing wealth.

The government also has massive resources to train and equip the prison’s security details with the best skills and materials. As such, the security of the inmates and the public would be guaranteed. Further, such capacities gives the publicly run facilities ability to handle both low and high security threat convicts. Since the public correctional services are offered as a public good, there is no profit motive behind it so that the government would not use the opportunity to seek monetary gains. However, if private arrangements are made, there is a possibility of provider’s collusion in the market thus hike the fees. Though this may be avoided through contractual agreements, if demand surpasses supply , the private bodies may gang up to increase feed during contract renewal or renegotiation processes.

Overcrowding of the public correctional facilities is a major challenge that comes with the insistence on the public run facilities. As a result, the convicts are subject to inhumane conditions that is not only degrading but also health compromising. For example, by 2006, in Alabama, the public prisons had a double capacity of prisoners (Johnson, 2006). The other challenge is budget restrictions due to many competing projects that require government funding. This means that less than the required amount of money may be allocated to prisons reforms.

Arguments for Turning the Correctional System over To the Private Correctional Industry

A major benefit of correctional system privatization is that there is possibility for coming up with innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the public administration. The private sector though research and development is known to be very innovative and result oriented. Through this, there is possibility of efficiency and delivery of the services though decentralized decision making processes that is devoid of the executive bureaucracies. The efficiency that is generated from the private sector services would be beneficial to the public and the economy. This is because there would be cost savings in the process (Maahs & Pratt, 1999). As such, the money saved by the exchequer can be used to enhance the development of other sectors of the criminal justice system. This is because under the private arrangement the private investors will be required to manage, build and finance the facilities based on the contractual agreements with the government(Theroux, 1998). Put differently, the government can only outsource the services after a preliminary study, to determine if there is possibility of cost savings. According to Theroux (1998), by privatizing the facilities, it is estimated the cost savings that accrue to the government range between 5-10% , with California , for example realizing between USD 155 million and USD 310 Million reduction in operation al costs of running the public correctional facilities. Emphatically Price (2005), argues that because of the fiscal stress due to high costs of running the correctional facilities, privatization has offered the best way to deal with the challenges.

The other benefit of privatization is that there is possibility of separation of hard core from non hardcore criminals. It is believed that the public correctional facilities that mixes all types of criminals may have counterproductive results as the prisoner may learn the tricks of committing crime and beating the justice system from the seasoned gangsters. As such, the private services offer the best alternative for this challenge given that they may specialize on the services to offer. This way, it is possible to separate non violent from violent criminals and the auspice of alterative imprisonment (Theroux, 1998). According to Wagner (n.d), some prisoners may too violent and need specialized handling as well as elaborate security measures. Further, the private correctional facilities offer a solution to the overcrowding and congestions that characterize the public facilities. As such, the private arrangements that are backed with legislated policies not only help to keep the criminals away from the rest of the society but also helps to amicably address the ‘prison and jail crowding problems’ (Johnson, 2006).

However, privatization of the prisons comes with several challenges. The major challenge that the private sector may face is need to breakeven so as to remain afloat. By attempting to reduce the costs and have a wider margin of net benefits, it is likely that the intended quality of the services may be compromised. This will beat the very logic of the privatization. it is also costly to put up the facilities and raise funds for the same. This challenge is also perpetuated by the fact that there are very many conditions required to be met before an organization gets the government’s approval. Security issues are also a challenge as the private investors must acquire the modern facilities and equipment needed to boost their security. The process to privatize the prisons has also been challenging on the grounds that it may lead to job losses. This is because the private sector may have a lean staff. As such the move has been opposed by several trade unions in the public sector.

Legal issues (criminal and civil)

Before privatization there is need to take into account certain legal issues. First, there is need to enact laws that governs the process so that it becomes more organized and legal. There should be clearly defined criminal offence in relation to the deal so that the penalties that can be imposed upon erection of illegal facilities or failure to adhere to the standards are well stipulated.

The other legal issues relate to handling of the clients and running of the faculties. According to Johnson (2006), there issues relating to the ‘minimum standards in inmate treatment’ that has to be adhered to by all the institutions. As such, before privatization takes place, the government needs to outline how the prisoners should be treated, the access given to outsiders to the facilities and the services to be offered. The criminal and civil issues relating to failure to adhere to such requirements and conditions for privatization should be spelt out before an arrangement is made so that necessary steps can be taken against the firms or private organizations which go against the spirit of correction and rehabilitation of the clients.


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