OPINION: Fix, don’t abolish private prisons

From Issue 8


The Biden administration has recently released its plan to  phase out the use of private prisons. It doesn’t seem as though this will be an issue in the future. While there are problems with private prison, I believe it is clear that we should keep them around, and fix the problems that have faced the private prison industry for decades.

As of 2013, there were over 130,000 inmates in private prisons, roughly  10% of the total prison population  here in the US. This means that private prisons house a massive chunk of our prison population, and if we attempt to simply get rid of them, it will be expensive to store these prisoners in the short term, and expensive to build and maintain new prisons in the future.

Private prisons are better for the general public, because they almost always cost less than government-run prisons. Specific statistics about the costs of private prisons are not widely published, but we do know that private prisons are less of a burden on taxpayers than public prisons, and help reduce the number of people, and the quality of life, in public prisons.  

There are substantive problems with private prisons. Violence and lack of order due to cost cutting are common, which is why there must be stronger regulation and oversight. As it stands now, they are allowed to operate with minimal compunction and responsibility, cutting corners and doing everything they can to house the inmates as cheaply as possible cheaply in order to bring more money in for the owners.

Private prisons have higher rates of recidivism and higher rates of assault and crime within them. It is also worth considering that private prisons have no incentive to rehabilitate prisoners, since prisoners are how they make money. We should be able to change the system so that owners can still make money and the inmates can be housed in safe, humane environments. It’s just going to require some hard work.