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Private Sector Involvement in Juvenile Justice.

The American Correctional Association (ACA), under a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), conducted a survey in 1999 regarding private sector involvement in juvenile justice systems. Results of this survey are presented below and compared with a similar study conducted in 1991 by Robert B. Levinson and William J. Taylor.

Survey Findings

Fifty-seven replies were received from 41 different jurisdictions, including Puerto Rico and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Of the total number of jurisdictions, 46 (81 percent) indicated they had at least one currently active private sector (PS) contract; the remainder of this report focuses on the responses received from those jurisdictions. This group has been contracting with the private sector for an average of 14.2 years. California reported the longest experience with private service contracting, at more than 40 years. The number of PS contracts per jurisdiction (see Table 1) ranged from 1 to 373, averaging 58.1. Oregon reported having the most.

The highest percentage of respondents (85 percent) had contracts with private, nonprofit agencies, followed by solely owned, for-profit (76 percent); public, nonprofit (49 percent); and public, for-profit (20 percent). Nine jurisdictions indicated they had PS contracts with other types of agencies/entities -- the largest proportion of these were with professional individuals.

Table 2 shows the percentage of their budgets' jurisdictions spent on these activities by the types of services for which they contracted. Because of the widely differing sizes of the responding jurisdictions, the survey results are reported in percentages. It also should be noted that some jurisdictions did not break down their expenditures into the different subcategories -- those are included in "Operations and Programs."

Overall, the largest proportion of jurisdictions that responded to this item (66 percent), expended an average of 24.4 percent of their contract funds on operations and programs. This was followed by 56 percent of the respondents who spent an average of 20.9 percent of their contract funds for community-based programs. The area on which the fewest respondents spent contract funds was facility maintenance, while the smallest proportion of funds was spent on PS contracts for food at 1.2 percent.

Forty-one percent of these jurisdictions spent an average of 10.3 percent of their PS funds for specialized interventions. For the 41 jurisdictions that responded to this survey item, the average proportion of budget funds expended on private sector contracts was 10.7 percent.

Attitudes Toward Contracting

The main reason the survey respondents gave for PS contracting was that the private sector vendors could provide services and expertise that the jurisdictions lacked -- this was mentioned in 80 percent of the replies. The second most popular reason, listed by 54 percent of respondents, was that the private sector could offer services that were cheaper and more efficient. Flexibility/diversity of services was endorsed by 18 (44 percent) of those who replied. All together, there were 29 different responses to this item.

Table 3 displays the most frequently mentioned positive outcomes and shortcomings of contracting, from a total of 28 and 21 replies, respectively.

According to the respondents, these shortcomings were primarily due to the vendors. Most often the difficulties were experienced with PS contracts with solely owned, for profit agencies and with public, for profits. The fewest difficulties were experienced with public, nonprofits followed by the private, nonprofits. In short, entities that awarded private sector contracts had the most difficulty with for-profit agencies.

Eighty-five percent of respondents listed service areas where new PS contracts were anticipated. Only one jurisdiction -- Missouri -- stated that it anticipated fewer such contracts in the future. However, 54 percent of respondents said their agencies were moving toward more PS contracting -- on average, about two new contracts per agency. The rest expected to maintain about the same number of contracts. On the list of the 69 anticipated new contractual services/programs, the most frequently mentioned (number in parentheses) were:

* Health/mental health programs (6)

* Programs for special needs juveniles (6)

* Services for females (6)

* Residential (secure) programs (5)

* Community-based programs (4)

* Substance abuse (inpatient) (4)

* More detention space (3)

* Nonresidential services (3)

Six states -- Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin -- indicated there was existing or pending legislation that encouraged PS contracting; for the remaining 85 percent of jurisdictions, there was no such legislation. Additionally, 87 percent of those responding said there was no legislation or rules that hampered such contracting. Further, 95 percent of the survey replies indicated the criteria they used to accept or reject PS contracts. High-frequency responses were: compliance with agency regulations, cost, selection by a panel, and the vendor's history and/or past performance.

The two most frequently mentioned methods for monitoring private sector contracts were by specifically designated staff and by conducting on-site reviews. Annual reviews of documentation and reports and financial reviews of billing accuracy also received many mentions. Forty-nine percent of respondents use a formal, written monitoring/evaluation plan.

Comparison With Prior Findings

The proportion of agencies that reported having at least one PS contract decreased between 1991 (98 percent; see Levinson and Taylor, 1991) and 1999 (81 percent). However, the average length of experience with private sector contracting increased from 13.7 years to 14.2 years. The average number of PS contracts dropped from 81 to 58 per agency, and Oregon replaced Georgia as the jurisdiction with the most PS contracts. Table 4 compares the types of PS contracts, then and now.

From 1991 to 1999, the proportion of jurisdictions contracting with nonprofits remained the same while PS contracts with for-profit agencies increased, as did the proportion of jurisdictions contracting with private individuals ("other"). As displayed in Table 5, the reasons given for signing private sector contracts in 1991 and 1999 essentially were the same. Despite the slight changes in rank, there was a higher level of consensus in the most recent survey data.

A somewhat smaller proportion of the respondents in 1999 than in 1991 indicated that their agencies anticipated more private sector contracts -- 54 percent compared with 60 percent; only a slightly greater percentage reported the number of PS contracts would remain about the same -- 39 percent now compared with 35 percent then. A comparison of the types of contracts that agencies were seeking are displayed in Table 6.

The type of PS contracts that were most frequently mentioned are listed in the left-hand column. In 1999, three areas received the highest (identical) number of endorsements. Residential treatment, which ranked first in 1991, ranked fourth eight years later. Two of the areas (programs for special needs juveniles and services for females) were not among the top five listed in 1991. The types of PS contracting that will be sought in the future have changed, and the anticipated programs are more defined now than in 1991.

Findings from the recent ACA/ OJJDP survey reflect a strong continuing interest in contracting with the private sector for correctional programs and services for juveniles. Overall, in the eight years since the previous assessment, there has been an increase in the use of for-profit contractors - from 60 percent in 1991 to 80 percent in 1999. Further, it appears that this trend will continue into the future.


Levinson, Robert B. and William 3. Taylor. 1991. ACA studies privatization in juvenile corrections. Corrections Today, 53(5):242-248.

Robert B. Levinson, Ph.D., is special projects manager for ACA. Raymond Chase is juvenile grant administrator for ACA.
Type of Agency (n): Number Average Minimum Maximum
Private, nonprofit (35) 1,197 34.2 1 373
Solely owned, for-profit (31) 732 23.6 1 240
Public, nonprofit (20) 208 10.4 1 164
Public, for-profit (11) 107 9.7 1 55
Other (8) 138 17.3 1 100
OVERALL (41) 2,382 58.1 1 373
n= Number of jurisdictions
Type of Contract Services Average % of Budget
Operations and Programs 24.4%
Community-Based 20.9%
Specialized 10.3%
Maintenance 2.6%
Medical 2.4%
Clinical/Mental Health 2.2%
Education 1.6%
Food Services 1.2%
Positives Shortcomings
(15) Responsive to jurisdictions' (19) Monitoring/control problems
 (9) Provide specific service (12) Lack of knowledge of DOCs'
 (8) Increase program variety (8) High costs
 (8) Provide good services (7) High turnover of vendor's staff
 (8) Saves money (6) Contracting process too
 (6) Participants show positive (6) Resist assessment/evaluation
 (5) Have expertise/specialized staff (6) Unrealistic view of population
 (5) More flexibility (4) Resist taking difficult juveniles
 (4) vendor's staff inexperience
Type of Agency (n) 1991 1999
Nonprofit 90% 89%
For-profit 60% 80%
Other 8% 17%
Reason 1991 (rank) 1999 (rank)
Cost efficiency 22% (1st) 57% (2nd)
Service unavailable within agency 17% (2nd) 78% (1st)
Increase diversity of services 13% (3rd) 42% (3rd)
Type 1991 (rank) 1999 (rank)
Residential treatment (1st) (4th)
Day treatment (2nd) (5th)
Mental health services (3.5) (2nd)
Programs for special needs inveniles -- (2nd)
Services for females -- (2nd)
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Article Details
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Author:Levinson, Robert B.; Chase, Raymond
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Polling Data
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
Previous Article:Comparing Public and Private Prison Costs: the ARIZONA method.
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