You would spend an additional 90 days in prison in a private prison
- Mississippi’s private jails tend to hold prisoners 90 days longer than public jails.
- The extra days consume half of the cost savings expected from a private prison.
- The study leaves several questions open, such as the impact of those extra days on recidivism rates.
The United States of America, the land of freedom, is home to 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. The cost of having so many people in the penal system is $ 80 billion a year, more than three times the budget of Nasa. This massive system has exploded in size relatively recently, with the prison population increasing six-fold over the past four decades.
Ten percent of these prisoners are held in private prisons, which are owned and operated for profit by contractors. In theory, these operations cost less than prisons and public jails, and states can save money by hiring them to incarcerate people. They have a long the story in the United States and are used in a lot other countries as good.
However, despite the ubiquity of private contractors in the US prison system, there isn’t much research on how they deliver on their promise to provide similar services at a lower cost to the state. The little research available often encounters difficulties in trying to compare the costs and benefits of facilities with operations and occasionally produced results suggesting that there is little benefits to privatization.
A new study through Dr Anita Mukherjee and published in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy joins the debate with a solid reflection on the costs and benefits of private prisons. His findings suggest that some private prisons keep people incarcerated longer and save less money than advertised.
The study focuses on Mississippi prisons. Despite its relatively high incarceration rate, Mississippi’s prison system is very similar to that of other states that also use private prisons. Demographically, its system is representative of the rest of the US prison system and its inmates are sentenced to similar terms.
The state tries to make the most of its privatization efforts, in 1994 law requires all contracts for Mississippi private prisons to achieve at least 10% savings over public prisons while providing similar services. As a result, the state seeks to maximize its savings by first sending inmates to private facilities if there is room.
Although Mississippi’s public and private prisons are quite similar, there are a few differences that allow private operators to save costs, including the fact that guards are paid 30% less and have fewer benefits than their public sector employees. counterparts.
The results of privatization
The graph illustrates the probability of release of public prisoners (dotted line) compared to private prisoners (solid line). At all sentence levels served, public inmates were more likely to be released than private inmates.Dr Anita Mukherjee
The study drew on administrative records from the Mississippi penitentiary system between 1996 and 2013. The data included information on inmate demographics, crimes committed, sentence lengths, time served, offenses during prison. incarceration and relocation of inmates during their stay in the system, including between public and private prisons. For this study, the sample examined was limited to those serving between one and six years and those who had served at least a quarter of their sentence. This created a primary sample of 26,563 reservations.
The analysis found that inmates in private prisons were behind bars for four to seven percent more than those in public prisons, which translates to about 85 to 90 additional days per inmate. This is partly explained by the fact that inmates in private prisons serve more of their sentence (73%) than those in public institutions (70%).
This in turn could be due to the much higher crime rate in private prisons than in public prisons. While only 18% of inmates in a public prison commit an offense, such as disobeying a guard or possessing contraband, the number jumps to 46% in a private prison. Offenses can reduce the likelihood of early release or add time to a sentence.
It is not known why there are so many offenses in private prisons. Dr Mukherjee suggests that this could be the result of “harsher detention conditions in private prisons”, better surveillance techniques, incentives to report more to the state before contract renewals, or even a nonchalant attitude on the part of the employees of public prisons.
What is all this costing in Mississippi?
The extra time spent consumes 48 percent of the cost savings of keeping prisoners in a private facility. For example, it costs about $ 135,000 to house an inmate in a private prison for three years and $ 150,000 in the public system. But longer stays in private prisons reduce the savings from $ 15,000 to just $ 7,800.
As Dr Mukherjee points out, this cost is also just funding. Some things are a little harder to measure:
“There are, of course, other costs which are difficult to quantify – for example, the cost of injustice to society (if inmates in private prisons systematically serve more time), the individual value of freedom. prisoner’s freedom and the impacts of additional incarceration on future employment Abrams and Rohlfs (2011) estimate the value of a prisoner’s freedom for 90 days to be approximately $ 1,100 using an experimental variation under the setting. on bail Mueller-Smith (2017) estimates that 90 days of marginal incarceration costs about $ 15,000 in reduced wages and increased reliance on social assistance If these social costs exceeded $ 7,800 in the example cited, private prisons would no longer offer a bargain in terms of welfare-adjusted cost savings. “
It is possible that the extra time in prison offers benefits that offset these costs, such as a reduced recidivism rate, but this has proven difficult to determine. Although it was not statistically significant, there was some evidence that overtime actually increased the rate of recidivism. If this is true, then private prisons could be counterproductive.
From your Articles site
Related articles on the web