The prison privatization debate has thus far formed around both normative and empirical frameworks. Although not denying the importance of the debate over whether private prisons should exist, the fact that privatization has occurred necessitates empirical examination. We, therefore, use census of federal and state correctional facilities data to compare the quality of confinement across federal, state, and private prisons. After controlling for important institutional differences, we find that across many of the domains of quality, public and private prisons are similar. Public and private prisons did differ on some measures. Private prisons experienced less crowding than either state or federal prisons. Conversely, federal prisons scored higher on measures of activity (work, treatment, education) than privately run institutions.
- quality of confinement
- state and federal prisons