The Increasing the Economic Consequences of Prison Privatization

Karl R. Kunkel, Southwest Missouri State University
Jason S. Capps, University of Kansas

Over the past twenty years the number of private prisons across the United States has increased tremendously. Many states have turned to privatization as a "cost-saving" means for handling both new prison construction and the custody of an increasing inmate population. This paper first provides a brief history of prison privatization by documenting the growth of this phenomenon in various states across the country. This examination includes a quick look at reasons for increased inmate populations and the related demand for private prisons. Next, we consider the economic consequences of private prisons by first looking at the profitability of these facilities for those who own/operate them and then assessing the costs to state-level taxpayers. Economic and social consequences of these expenses are discussed within the context of contemporary "budget crises" in numerous states. This paper frames the presentation of these findings as both an application of and a contribution to theory in critical criminology.

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Updated 05/20/2006