Public Versus Private Juvenile Justice Educational Services: A Comparative Analysis

Gordon P. Waldo, Florida State University

Privatization in juvenile justice has experienced considerable growth in the past decade. This growth has been justified by a cost effective rationale, which claims that private providers can offer higher quality services at a reduced cost. However, such claims are without research support. Nonetheless, many states continue to contract with private entities to provide various juvenile justice services, including education. Due to the well-established relationship between education and crime, it seems that providing at-risk juveniles with quality educational services can improve post-release outcomes. Therefore, it is especially important to evaluate the efficacy of privatization efforts in juvenile justice education. This study uses statewide data and various statistical techniques to evaluate the quality of educational services being provided by public, private not-for-profit, and private for-profit juvenile justice programs. The data indicate that public juvenile justice programs provide better educational services than private programs. Additionally, private not-for-profit programs offer better educational services than private forprofit programs. However, there are some private entities who provide excellent services. This study concludes that states need to be cautious in awarding contracts to private providers, as some deliver lower quality educational services than their public counterparts and at no reduced cost.

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Updated 05/20/2006