Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prisons?

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Ormurinn
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Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prisons?

Postby Ormurinn » Thu May 02, 2013 7:32 am UTC

At least according to this study; http://www.reform.co.uk/content/17543/r ... te_prisons

Now, I'd always thought that a lot of the problems with the U.S prison system were due to it being more privatized than others, but now I'm not so sure.
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby kiklion » Thu May 02, 2013 11:57 am UTC

A lot of the backlash to private prisons that I have seen are due to either: people think that it is morally wrong for a private company to profit when a member of society breaks the law because it creates a perverse incentive for the prison owners to want more law breakers; or due to minimum prisoner counts in some contracts.

The latter, I believe is a misunderstanding of the contract. The one I read, I lost the source at the moment, had the government paying the prison on a per prisoner rate, with a minimum prisoner count. So even if the prison wasn't holding anyone, they would get a minimum amount of money. This assists the government through reducing the variable cost of incarcerating people, assuming the minimum count isn't too far off from the actual.

The former is partially solved if we assume the minimum prisoner counts exist in all contracts and are not a promise from the government to the prison to deliver X number of criminals but to pay for at least X criminals. Then, the prison would want the number of incarcerated to be below the minimum so that they get more 'per prisoner' money. There may be a number above the minimum where they want more prisoners if the per prisoner payment from the government and the cost per prisoner to the prison don't scale 1:1 past that minimum amount due to increased efficiency.

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CorruptUser
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 12:14 pm UTC

1) Private prisons have no incentive to reduce recidivism.
2) Private prisons only select the best behaved prisoners, to beef up their stats.
3) Private prisons run the risk of creating a truly insidious prison-industrial complex; look up kids for cash online.


So no. Just, no. No.

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby Ormurinn » Thu May 02, 2013 12:24 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:1) Private prisons have no incentive to reduce recidivism.
2) Private prisons only select the best behaved prisoners, to beef up their stats.
3) Private prisons run the risk of creating a truly insidious prison-industrial complex; look up kids for cash online.


So no. Just, no. No.


1. The study I posted claims that private prisons have better recidivism rates.
2. How exactly would this happen?
3. I've looked into kids for cash, hence my initial skepticism.
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CorruptUser
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby CorruptUser » Thu May 02, 2013 12:33 pm UTC

Private prisons would only accept prisoners for crimes that have lower recidivism rates or are on good behavior in the government prisons. Then when the less violent criminals reoffend less often than the violent ones, claim it's because of the prison and not because they were rigging the data.

In short, private prisons REFUSE the prisoners that cost the most to imprison, then claim they have lower costs.

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby kiklion » Thu May 02, 2013 1:09 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Private prisons would only accept prisoners for crimes that have lower recidivism rates or are on good behavior in the government prisons. Then when the less violent criminals reoffend less often than the violent ones, claim it's because of the prison and not because they were rigging the data.

In short, private prisons REFUSE the prisoners that cost the most to imprison, then claim they have lower costs.


This was the first thing I thought of as well when reading the article, but without having the time to read how they selected comparable prisons I couldn't take that stance. If they truly found comparable prisons, those who have the same type of prisoners, then that is a moot point. Private and public have the same types of prisoners and private was working better. If you want to argue that private prisons are more selective, then you would need to highlight why the researchers were incorrect when they claim they compared against comparable prisons.

Unless they were actually using the other definition of comparable:
1. Capable of Comparison

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby leady » Thu May 02, 2013 1:19 pm UTC

Its not particularly hard to avoid all the listed issues

re-offending rates for example can be incentivised by bonuses for prisoners that don't reoffend within 2 years

public prisions never have any incentives

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu May 02, 2013 1:32 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:At least according to this study; http://www.reform.co.uk/content/17543/r ... te_prisons

Now, I'd always thought that a lot of the problems with the U.S prison system were due to it being more privatized than others, but now I'm not so sure.


Well, there's a coupla factors at play. For one thing, private or public, imprisonment is fairly expensive either way. Yeah, there are some things you can do to make it marginally less expensive, but at a minimum, you're paying people to guard other people instead of having all those people be productive. Sure, you need SOME prisons, but as the scale of the prison system rises, so does the cost. In short, the rate of imprisonment appears to have a MUCH higher effect on cost than the specific efficiency of a prison.

The US has a really high incarceration rate. Private prisons love this, and lobby for it to be increased. The benefits for this to them are obvious...but are not necessarily a benefit to society. I'd say we'd be MUCH better off with optimizing imprisonment rate to be lower than focusing on making imprisonment slightly cheaper.

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby omgryebread » Thu May 02, 2013 2:45 pm UTC

Private prisons choose cheaper prisoners - and are more expensive

That's not the only study that shows the cost benefits are negligible or non-existent. Many studies that aren't funded by the industry show similar results.

Private prison operators are huge lobbyists. The Correction Corporation of America met with Russell Pierce while he was writing the infamous SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law. Guess who runs Arizona's immigration detention facilities?

In Pennsylvania, two judges were found guilty of accepting bribes from a private prison operator to send kids to jail for minor crimes. One girl was sent to jail for mocking a principle on myspace.

CCA funded a campaign promoting a law in California that would have forced courts to try 14 year olds as adults if they've been convicted of a "gang-related" felony, while also taking money from schools to put into building more prisons. Thankfully, the law was defeated.

I find libertarian arguments for private prisons to be odd. They are essentially the worst of the free market and of government intervention combined. A normal private business has two competing motives: cut cost, and deliver a quality product or service. If Starbucks spends too much making their coffee, they will lose money or have to charge too much and price themselves out of the market. But if they cut costs too much, they'll have bad coffee that no one wants to buy.

Government contractors have the incentive to cut costs, sure. But what they don't have is the same incentive for quality. Because unlike private businesses, they have another way to keep their customer: lobbying. Imagine if Starbucks said to you: "hey, if you drink our coffee, we'll help you keep your job." Because that's exactly what private prisons can do.
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby Zamfir » Fri May 03, 2013 6:00 am UTC

In the list of Reform donors, G4S is one if the larger ones. I don't know many prison companies, so some of the other donors might also be running prisons. I find this think-tanking an intruiging business. If G4S were to put some handpicked stats on its own website to show how awesome they are, everybody would yawn and ignore it*. But if you pay some friendly politicians to do the same, it's suddenly a topic of debate.


* In the Netherlands, Toilet Duck built its reputation on the slogan "We from Toilet Duck recommend Toilet Duck". It didn't convince anybody of its quality as toilet cleaner, but at least it's amusingly honest.

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby Hemmers » Fri May 03, 2013 3:51 pm UTC

Hmmm,
I'm just taking the headline figures from that article (will try and read the whole report later), but I simply don't see how Reform are reaching the conclusions they're claiming:

They're saying private prisons are the mutts nuts because:

- Resource management and operational effectiveness: 12 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons
- Decency: 7 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons
- Reducing re-offending: 7 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons.
- Public protection: 5 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons

I would define an operationally effective prison as one which protects the public from dangerous individuals, and which rehabilitates prisoners to be productive members of society who do not re-offend!

On the reoffending front, 7/12 private prisons do better than public prisons - so 5/12 public prisons do better, or are there some ties in there? To me that looks almost 50/50. As usual, lies, damn lies and cherry-picked statistics.
Especially when one considers that private prisons only score 5/12 on public protection (surely the single most important measure! Kinda why you have prisons in the first place no?).

Of course those stats are massively simplified, and you can always call the selection method of "similar" institutions into question, but if reform can draw conclusions from simplified data, then so can I!

It would appear that on balance, private and public are relatively even-stevens on the two points that actually matter, which makes one wonder how private prisons get 12/12 for operational effectiveness!?!?!
"Oh, we had some escapes of dangerous felons, but our paperwork is perfect - we know exactly who escaped and when! 100% effectiveness!" :roll:



Either way, compared to Scandanavian prisons, incarcerations and re-offending rates in both the UK and US suck, so whether the paychecks come from the government or G4S (although they all come from government originally), there's shedloads of room for improvement.

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby CorruptUser » Fri May 03, 2013 3:59 pm UTC

And honestly, for $50k/yr, plus the vast sums spent on the homeless (hospital beds, plus theft, etc), wouldn't it be so much cheaper to just have a better system of welfare?

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby addams » Fri May 03, 2013 4:17 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:1) Private prisons have no incentive to reduce recidivism.
2) Private prisons only select the best behaved prisoners, to beef up their stats.
3) Private prisons run the risk of creating a truly insidious prison-industrial complex; look up kids for cash online.


So no. Just, no. No.

I have no idea who you are.
I may not like you.

I agree with You on This One.
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The Prisons for Profit is Such a Bad Idea.
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Out Source? OK! To Someone that Does it Right!
Dutch People! Send in Some Experts!

Of course, The US has to pay them.
They get Two Paychecks. That is Better Than One.

The Dutch Government Pays Them.
Maybe, the us would have to Pay The Dutch.

That would work! Those people know stuff. It's true.
If we can not trust Our Government.
Then let us Trust some other Grown Ups.

They Do Know Stuff! They Know Stuff in English and They Know Stuff in Dutch!
It is hard to imagine. I know. It is True, anyway!

If we are Not Doing it Right.
Let someone else Do It!!


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He did not say he was Ashamed. He did say, something.
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri May 03, 2013 8:43 pm UTC

Hemmers wrote:They're saying private prisons are the mutts nuts because:

- Resource management and operational effectiveness: 12 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons
- Decency: 7 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons
- Reducing re-offending: 7 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons.
- Public protection: 5 out of 12 privately managed prisons are better than comparable public sector prisons

I would define an operationally effective prison as one which protects the public from dangerous individuals, and which rehabilitates prisoners to be productive members of society who do not re-offend!


I suspect the key here is that you're defining "operationally effective" differently than they are. Now, reducing re-offending and public protection ARE important, but they are not the only important things. I'd agree that Decency, Re-offending, and Public Protection all seem to have results that are pretty indistinguishable from the mean, given the sample sizes we're looking at. Therefore, I wouldn't really bother myself overly with those results, unless I was looking for something unique the best or worst prisons were doing.

Operational Effectiveness appears to be "how much this costs". That's important. Important enough to sacrifice the other things for, well, sure, that'd be an issue...but all other things being about equal, I do like cheap.

The question is, is it really cheaper? In addition to the possible selection bias brought up earlier, I feel that the incentives for private prisons to advocate for increased imprisonment has the potential to be very expensive indeed. However, the conclusion that publishing data for all prisons would be helpful seems pretty reasonable. A larger data set would certainly help to get more definitive answers for the other questions.

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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby addams » Sat May 04, 2013 3:40 pm UTC

For Profet Prisons are a Bad Idea!

Where do you get your information?
Do you listen to the Jailers?

I have. Sometimes for Yuck and Giggles I will attend a Public meeting.
The Men and Women in those Meetings know how to drain The System.

Yes. Most cash a Government Paycheck.
Listen to them! Where do their Loyalties lie?

Not With The People!
Not With The Government!
Where?!

I watch. Maybe, I do not understand.
Maybe I DO!

The Fat Cat Bastards get their cut 'off the top'.
The People? The one with or the ones without Rights?

Rights? Strange concept. How does a 130 lb man enforce his Rights?
A 230 lb man in a Cage enforces his Rights the same way.
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby Kulantan » Sat May 04, 2013 4:13 pm UTC

The report made for an interesting read. Basically the report claims that private prisons are cheaper and have better inmate/prisons officer relations because they treat their staff a lot worse than publicly run prisons. The low wages and worse benefits meant that the staff turnover is higher. In turn this means that the staff have less time to become jaded, dehumanize the prisoners and needlessly make the prisoners' lives worse. Which is an interesting conclusion to say the least.

As Zamfir pointed out, G4S is a major prison operator in the UK and their donation to Reform demonstrates what I consider to be the primary problem of privatized prisons. As the current American dynamic is demonstrating, prison companies will probably end up lobbying for things that give them more money, not things that improve the prison system.
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby addams » Sun May 05, 2013 12:20 am UTC

Kulantan wrote:The report made for an interesting read. Basically the report claims that private prisons are cheaper and have better inmate/prisons officer relations because they treat their staff a lot worse than publicly run prisons. The low wages and worse benefits meant that the staff turnover is higher. In turn this means that the staff have less time to become jaded, dehumanize the prisoners and needlessly make the prisoners' lives worse. Which is an interesting conclusion to say the least.

As Zamfir pointed out, G4S is a major prison operator in the UK and their donation to Reform demonstrates what I consider to be the primary problem of privatized prisons. As the current American dynamic is demonstrating, prison companies will probably end up lobbying for things that give them more money, not things that improve the prison system.

That was interesting.
Lower wages and lots and lots of Turnover in Staff.

Where does That Path lead?

Think! What happens in Low Paying Jobs with high turn over?
No one Knows what is going on? Yes. That happens.
What else?

It is better to Keep ones mouth shut?
Yes. That happens.

The Owners eat somewhere else?
Yes. That happens.

What else Happens? Low Education and Training?
Yes. That happens.

What else happens?

I do not know what The Numbers are.
I read a 25% number, somewhere.

Twenty-five percent of the US population is or was in Jail.
Is that a Good Number?

Do you like those odds?
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We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
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Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
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Re: Private Prisons more effective than Public-sector Prison

Postby cemper93 » Tue May 07, 2013 3:26 pm UTC

Wikipedia wrote:Reform is a British right-wing think tank based in London, whose declared mission is to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity via private sector involvement and market de-regulation. Reform describes itself as independent and non-partisan. It was founded in 2001 by Nick Herbert (now a Conservative MP) and Andrew Haldenby (former head of the Political Section in the Conservative Research Department).

Emphasis mine.

Edit: Also the fun fact that they write "the Government" in capitals throughout the entire "study".


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