Are private prisons more cost-effective than public prisons? A meta-analysis of evaluation research studies

Travis C. Pratt, Jeff Maahs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations

Abstract

The need to reduce the costs of incarceration to state and federal correctional agencies has allowed the movement to privatize correctional institutions to gain considerable momentum. The empirical evidence regarding whether private prisons are more cost-effective than public institutions, however, is inconclusive. To address this question, a meta-analysis was conducted of 33 cost-effectiveness evaluations of private and public prisons from 24 independent studies. The results revealed that private prisons were no more cost-effective than public prisons, and that other institutional characteristics-such as the facility's economy of scale, age, and security level - were the strongest predictors of a prison's daily per diem cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-371
Number of pages14
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

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