The John Howard Society of Alberta supports the privatization of corrections programs based on the following:

  • Contracting for provision of services with local community groups can provide government with a valuable vehicle for communication with its citizens.
  • Government can take advantage of specialized skills not always readily available within the civil services.
  • A quicker response to new needs is possible and experimentation in new programs is facilitated.
  • Clients of voluntary community-based agencies correctly perceive them as separate from the government and as offering a choice of services that are effective and accessible
  • The boards of community organizations are responsible to their clients and must be sensitive to public opinion. They provide protection to the most vulnerable members of society and are at the same time accountable to government for the funds received.
  • Flexibility is possible in adjusting the size of programs, depending on demand and the availability of funds.
  • Yardsticks for comparison are available. Cost of services are usually highly visible in contract prices, unlike most government services. (John Howard Society of Alberta, 1986)

Although this policy statement is dated, it still represents the position of the John Howard Society of Alberta. It must be noted that the John Howard Society’s position on privatization concerns contracting for services such as probation and parole and does not reflect its position on profit oriented involvement in corrections.

The Situation in the United States

The situation in the United States is different from Canada because the states each have their own criminal codes and a more extensive penal system. Each state must decide its position on the matter of privatization. Because of this, there are no available figures on the extent of privatization in terms of contracts for services. Joel (as cited by John Howard Society, 1994) noted that all but nine American states have contracted out for miscellaneous services to varying degrees. Services such as medical and psychiatric care, food, drug treatment, staff training, inmate counselling, rehabilitation programs, classification of inmates, data systems management and payroll and accounting are the most common (Joel, 1993).