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The History and Politics of Private Prisons: A Comparative Analysis.

Martin Sellers, an associate professor of government at Campbell University in North Carolina, examines the issue of prison privatization in this slim volume. He believes private companies can manage prisons more efficiently than the public sector.

Professor Sellers presents an overview of prison privatization, discusses its history in the United States, presents the results of a study he conducted in 1987, discusses public policy implications and concludes with his view of the future of private prisons.

There are a few problems. The book presents a very one-sided view of the topic. Sellers tends to discount, and sometimes ignore, results that do not square with his thesis that privatization is beneficial to the public.

For example, he criticizes a National Institute of Corrections study that compared two secure juvenile training schools in Florida, one of which was transferred to the management of a non-profit foundation. His critique suggests the comparison facilities were not similar and cites the fact that NIC researchers were not on-site before the management was transferred.

With this criticism in mind, it's worth noting that Sellers' own study compares a privately run intensive treatment unit for juveniles with one operated by a state department of welfare; a private 95-bed jail with a county jail housing 125 inmates in a 95-bed capacity building; and a privately operated adult detention center housing 375 inmates with a public sector county correctional center housing 109 inmates. Also, he was not on-site when the private companies started operations.

In addition to presenting the issue in a biased way, the book contains several examples of incorrect information. It states that "there are approximately 400 major adult correctional institutions..." (ACA lists 824) and that "the American Correction (sic) Association...[has] endorsed the concept of privatization of prisons" (ACA has made no formal endorsement of the concept). Also, the book incorrectly defines GED as General Education Diploma, instead of General Equivalency Diploma.

There is a saying that when the clock strikes 13, one needs to question the other 12. This has more than a little application here.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Levinson, Robert B.
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Words:341
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