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private prison research

According to the U.S. Department of Justice more than 129,000 state and federal inmates are held in privately-operated prisons nationwide. A significant number of immigration detainees and juvenile offenders are housed in privatized facilities as well.

The issue of prison privatization has generated a great deal of controversy, but often that controversy ignores the fact that there exists a large body of research from highly credible sources which demonstrates substantial benefits through the privatization of correctional services.

Such research has been developed over the past 15 years from a variety of sources and has consistently shown positive outcomes from prison privatization. This includes research published in prestigious publications such as the Harvard Law Review and by distinguished institutions such as Vanderbilt University.

While some research with positive findings originated from private prison companies, often such companies are best situated to produce this type of research, as they have access to internal statistical data and proprietary information relative to the operation of privatized prisons. Other research with positive findings has originated from independent organizations with no stake or financial interest in the private prison industry.

When considering the privatization of correctional services, legislators, policy makers and corrections officials should examine the existing large body of research which has consistently shown benefits to government agencies and the public as a result of prison privatization.

Our Research Library contains links to notable research papers, studies and policy briefs that have found positive outcomes through prison privatization.

The private prison industry provides a valuable service to government agencies by allowing prison and jail systems to safely and efficiently incarcerate offenders in privately-run facilities. When public prisons or jails lack capacity, private prison firms can provide necessary bed space.
Around half of all immigration detainees are held in privately-operated facilities, which assists the federal government in fulfilling its obligation to enforce national immigration policies.


Private prisons are held accountable to the public through government contracting agencies, which require monitoring, audits and other oversight over privately-operated prisons.


Privatized correctional services include prison management, medical care, mental health care, food services, transportation services, halfway house operations, substance abuse programs and a host of other services, often at substantial savings.