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What’s the Difference? Public vs. Private Prisons

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jukai5 on Deposit Photos

President Biden recently placed a ban on private prisons, an executive order “intended to advance racial equity.” There are different types of prisons? Yes: private and state-operated. Each operates differently financially and have individual ways of running their institutions. Here’s the rundown.

Public Prisons

Public prisons, or state-operated institutions, are entirely owned and run by the government and are mainly funded through tax dollars. Federal prisons outsource a lot of their spending to other companies. For example, private companies are often hired to run food services and maintenance. This is one way of cutting costs. Public prisons are the traditional system. They are currently facing issues of overcrowding and understaffing. This makes private prisons seem like a valuable option to combat those issues.

Private Prisons

Privately owned prisons are run by a business or company. They are bought by private firms from the government (either local, federal or state), and become accountable for maintaining them. The government is responsible for providing prisoners, and the prison works as a business and makes a profit. The prisons are owned by the firm that is responsible for everyday maintenance and staffing. In turn, the government pays the prison for the inmates’ daily costs.

The debate

A debate about the better prison model is ongoing. Private and public prisons are both being scrutinized to determine which system operates better. There have been studies showing that private prisons have more escapes, higher staff-turnover, fewer work assignments and more violence. Private prisons are sometimes considered immoral since they make money for the corporation that owns the prisons and thus incentivize imprisonment through monetization. Federal prisons are overcrowded and need better maintenance. Comparing the two to find a winner is difficult due to the fact that each operates entirely differently and with its own set of rules. Basically, our criminal justice system needs major reform.

Takeaway

The U.S. has the largest amount of people locked up in the world. That is going to get expensive, but this industry is one that society needs to function. Both forms of prisons run differently, and both have flaws. We need to reform our criminal justice system in order to better utilize taxpayer dollars.

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