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Are private prisons problematic?

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Private prisons are those owned by a corporation instead of the federal or state governments running them. Privatizing the prison system was something that happened as a result of overcrowding and underfunding issues.

According to the Justice Policy Institute, the emergence of private prisons occurred in the 1980s because the government could no longer support the prison system as needed. Corporations offered to build and manage prisons that would help lessen the strain on the government-owned prison system. Since this time, the private prison system has grown extensively.


There are a variety of known issues with private prisons. One of the biggest problems is the focus of these systems is to make money. To do this, the corporations will cut corners, often leaving prisons without proper safety protection and inadequate services for inmates.

They will often operate with fewer staff members and provide them with less training than their government counterparts. This leaves them vulnerable and results in high turnover. It also makes the prisons less safe and increases the amount of assault and other dangerous issues inside the prison.

The private prisons also often have compliance issues. They fail normal compliance checks to ensure they operate within the legal boundaries set by government policies.


In Pennsylvania, the Kids for Cash scandal where judges got kickbacks for sentencing juveniles to specific private prisons brought to light the dangers of privatizing the system. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would end the private prison system due to safety concerns. In addition, it explained that these prisons are not saving money, which was the whole reason for their origination.