The private sector is becoming involved in increasing numbers in the field of corrections. This involvement can be through contracts for service delivery, owning and operating institutional facilities for profit, or industrial ventures. This paper has examined the research in these three areas and has presented both sides of the issue.
Contracting for service has become quite common in Canada, but it is still primarily undertaken by non-profit organizations such as the John Howard Society or the Elizabeth Fry Society that provide services for offenders both in the community and in prisons. Recent initiatives of the Alberta government show support for privatized human service delivery.
The prisons for profit issue continues to be debated in provinces across the country. In the United States, however, private prisons have been stimulated by a decentralized authority, overcrowded prisons, a pro-privatization political climate, a great number of different institutions, and an extremely fragmented correctional system. The numbers of private prisons are expanding. It appears that the United States is the testing ground for this new phenomenon in the privatization of corrections.
Finally, various forms of prison industries do exist in Canada and are operated under the name CORCAN. It is clear that Canada is open to the further development of prison industries and there has been renewed interest in this area.
The literature in these areas deals mainly with the advantages, issues and problems. It would appear that very little statistical research had been employed in these areas. There are statistics available in some cases that indicate the extent of privatization but few evaluation studies exist that target the successes or failures. It is hoped, however, that the literature described here will help the reader understand the various sides of the privatization debate.
The John Howard Society supports privatization of corrections in the areas of contracting for services and prison industries. We are active partners in contracted, community-based correctional services. On the issue of private prisons, however, we have fundamental concerns about the operation and impact of private prisons run for profit.