Apples-To-Fish: Public and Private Prison Cost Comparisons

This study by Alex Friedmann explores whether or not private prisons actually save money compared to public facilities by looking at the costs shifted from private facilities to the public sector. The conclusion of past studies has been "prison privatization provides neither a clear advantage nor disadvantage compared with publicly managed prisons." This artcle brings up the interesting point that it is difficult to compare public and private prisons unless they have similar characteristics (security, staffing, population types, etc.). Contrary to popular belief, a 2010 Arizona Office of the Auditor General report found "that privately-operated prisons were more expensive than public prisons when using an adjusted per capita rate." Another interesting point is the prisoner labor costs. Most prisons are dependent on prisoner labor. Private companies especially benefit because the wages are often paid by a contracting public agency. This article also touches on the profit motivation found in private companies that results in corruption.

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