Private Prisons and Claimed Efficiencies, is it Smoke, Mirrors, or Just Plain Magic?

Richard G. Hogan, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The private prison industry and their proponents have asserted for almost two decades that they deliver the same level of service at a lower cost than public prisons. This paper examines whether growth of the private prison industry owes more to the absence and distortion of data or to claimed efficiencies. Although the focus is on costs and the evolutionary nature of cost analysis as it pertains to this industry, issues of quality are also examined to lesser degree. Finally, suggestions are offered for State department of corrections that truly wish to reduce inmate per diem rates.

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Updated 05/20/2006