>Users:   login   |  register       > email     > people    


The Changing Face of Corrections
By Carl Nink
Published: 08/20/2012

Man in mask Introduction
More than 1.6 million individuals are currently incarcerated in prisons in the United States, and more than 700,000 prisoners are released each year. The dilemma is that while crime rates are down, incarceration rates in the long term continue to rise.

Contrary to the general perception, at least 95 percent of all offenders in state facilities are released. Nationwide state prisoners could expect to serve about two years from arrival to release in 2010.

Productive use of the time offenders spend incarcerated is too often a missed opportunity for both the offender and the community. States with evidence-based programming are most likely reducing the rate of recidivism. Effective programs have demonstrated as much as a 26 percent to 40 percent reduction in recidivism.

It is therefore vital, given the costs associated with corrections systems in America that the taxpayer receives the maximum benefit for the resource invested. One option that is proving to be successful in increasing accountability is the use of performance contracting.

Questions are often raised about security and quality, as compared to publicly-operated facilities. The answer is that contracted prisons are not only held to account, but they are held to higher standards, which is as it should be. Government needs to set high expectations and establish a system of monitoring to ensure accountability for performance.

Only a handful of correctional facilities are owned by contractors; the majority of the prisons are contractor operated for state, federal, or local government. The contractor is required by the terms and conditions of their agreement to follow agency imposed standards such as:
  • Security requirements, which are sometimes more stringent than the agency imposes on itself
  • Staffing levels, which adhere to agency rules for safety and security
  • Staff training that mirrors the agency requirements, using their assessments and curriculum
  • Salary levels and benefits which are competitive, since contracts include financial penalties for excessive turnover
  • Penalties for exceeding any benchmarks for assaults or contraband and for any escapes
  • Following agency direction on releases; government staff perform classification and sentence computations

Historical Information and Scope
Contracted prisons (about 8 percent of prison beds nationally) have been successfully used in the U.S. for more than 25 years, and are a viable option to limit costs without compromising service. Some states even have statutorily required savings, such as in Ohio at 5 percent and Florida at 7 percent. The states using public-private partnerships determine their costs and compare their costs with those contained within proposals submitted in response to government requests for service.

States using contractors continue to do so because the operator is providing a quality service at a reduced cost. Otherwise, the 30 states (6.7 percent of all state prisoners in 2010) and federal government (16.1 percent of all federal prisoners in 2010) would change how they operate.

Legal Accountability is High
The Harvard Law Review points out that there are many legal factors which increase contract prison accountability beyond that of the public prisons. Courts generally consider the judgment of government agencies as having greater credibility in contrast to that of contract corporations. Individual corporate employees have greater exposure to liability, since they are unable to claim qualified immunity in civil rights suits like their public counterparts. In being the target of inmate lawsuits, “…private prisons are, if anything, more accountable for constitutional violations than are public prisons.”

Correctional Systems Can Do Better
Within the U.S., with 68 percent of released inmates being rearrested and 43.3 percent being sent back to prison , the recidivism data and its relationship to correctional budgets is finally getting the attention it deserves. A significant number of states are focusing on reducing the enormous cost of recidivism. The fact is, our corrections system continues to fail in achieving success. If we look back, more than 80 percent of these releases had prior convictions suggesting the ‘failure’ of their earlier prison experience. Offenders are cycled in and out of our prisons, recommitting crimes in our communities along the way, and we continue to ignore the impact of new crimes and the escalating costs of new crimes, policing, and re-incarceration.

There is clear and convincing evidence that successful, well-managed prisons can make small but significant program investments that are both cost effective and will reduce recidivism by up to 40 percent.

The dimensions for defining a successful correctional facility are clear; they must be safe, secure, and humane, provide effective correctional programming, as well as be well managed. Not only is crime and its associated costs reduced, but the overall effect is widespread.

Greater Performance and Accountability
Market forces play a major role in private contractors providing the best services and management of prison facilities. Should a contractor not perform, they put themselves in a position to lose business on an existing contract and probably adversely affect any future contracts as well. This business priority necessarily demands that the company, warden, and staff pay close attention to their performance and ensure that every dollar is spent wisely and efficiently, minimizing waste. When private correctional contractors are engaged to design, build and/or operate prisons, it drives public sector change creating a win-win situation for taxpayers.

Recidivism, Education and Employment of Ex-Offenders
While access to criminal history data systems is restricted to law enforcement and public correctional agencies, it is important to pay attention to recidivism rates and programs that reduce the number of offenders returning to prison.

A successful prison is transparent, with published program outcomes. A key performance indicator for the industry is program completions (e.g. GED attainment, substance abuse programs, life skills classes, and vocational certificates). MTC, like other operators, has a data tracking system to provide ongoing feedback to senior executives and wardens on program performance, as well as resource utilization. In 2011, as a company operating 19 institutions with about 25,000 beds, MTC provided inmates with education, training, and treatment, as follows:
  • 1,040 GED’s
  • 359 Mexico equivalency diploma’s
  • 5,563 Life Skills
  • 8,062 Substance Abuse
  • 2,086 Vocational Training

Armed with education and skill development, offenders leaving MTC-operated prisons are better equipped to find and keep a job, as well as to be successful upon release. MTC is firmly committed to rehabilitation through education.

However, employment has always been a hurdle for ex-offenders. Incarceration for a felony can have a dramatic negative effect on one’s ability to secure employment, resulting in a higher than average unemployment rate. The scope of this effect can include such things as:
  • The stigma of being an ex-offender with a felony record; making some ineligible to be hired into certain jobs or ineligible to acquire some licenses
  • A decline in educational and work experience capital
  • A reduction in worker soft skills (e.g. how to dress, punctuality, customer dealings, etc.)
  • An interruption in connections to those who might support or sustain a person in employment and probably the development of connections with inmates which may make a person more prone to violate the law

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track ex-offenders to see what that group’s unemployment rate is; however, some experts have estimated the number at 40 to 60 percent. Further, in looking at national data, “… incarceration led to a 15 to 30 percentage-point decline in subsequent employment rates.” Generally, “…experts estimate the jobless rate for individuals with a prison record is from 40 percent to 60 percent.”

Cost to the Nation from Unemployed Ex-Offenders
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2008 there were between 12 – 14 million ex-offenders of working age. Since felons face greater employment challenges, it is estimated that “this large population lowered the total male employment rate that year [2008] by 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points. In terms of the gross domestic product, these reductions in employment cost the U.S. economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.”

Keys to Cost Effective Recidivism Reduction
Besides substance abuse treatment programs, it is widely believed that education and training play a critical role in reducing recidivism and opening up more job opportunities. These programs also provide the base upon which the ex-offender can succeed in an entry-level job and move up within a company to gain more skills, experience, and pay. It has been estimated that correctional education in Washington prisons achieves a total benefit of $21,246 per correctional education participant in prison (2010 dollars):
  • Of the total $21,246 in benefits, researchers with the Washington State Institute of Public Policy expect $5,238 to be received by taxpayers and $16,188 will accrue to others, primarily people who were not victimized by the avoided crimes.
  • The costs to implement this program in Washington are estimated to be $1,128 per prison participant.

Another research effort also confirmed the benefit of education in reducing recidivism. The Three-State Recidivism Study reviewed a group of over 3,000 offenders from Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio for a period of three years after release from incarceration. Findings included:
  • More than 62 percent of the correctional education participants had not completed high school.
  • Less than half of the study participants reported having a job waiting upon release.
  • Correctional education participants had statistically significant (at the .01 level) lower rates of re-arrest (48 percent) compared to the comparison group of non-participants (57 percent).
  • Correctional education participants also had higher earnings.

Conclusion
Research comparing public and contract corrections demonstrates that contractors deliver reduced costs, high quality, and enhanced accountability. Contract prisons generate savings during design, construction, and start-up as well as program management for years in the future. Structured and fiscally responsible operations enable government leaders to allocate scarce financial resources to other important programs.

Tight budgets provide incentives to explore and expand competitive government practices as part of a long-term strategy to curtail spiraling prison budgets. Research proves that the introduction of the private sector enables government leaders to provide essential services that are flexible, responsive, accountable, at a lower cost, with quality that is as good or better than those provided by the public sector.

There can be no clearer argument—an offender’s time in a facility should be well spent in order to avoid a return stay. Maintaining a safe and secure facility is primary, for nothing goes further unless this mission is achieved; however, correctional facilities must be accountable for the time offenders spend behind bars and the degree to which efforts have improved the condition of the offender such that the propensity to re-offend is reduced. Without changing the current path, incarceration will rise, outpacing facility capacity and squeezing ever-shrinking resources.

Performance measurement is the great equalizer; which should be applied to all prisons regardless of what entity operates the facility. Those exceeding prescribed benchmarks are rewarded, whereas those failing to meet standards, performance measures, and outcomes are sanctioned and ultimately replaced.

Corrections.com author, Carl Nink, MBA, is the Executive Director of the MTC Institute, the research unit within Management & Training Corporation. Carl retired from the Arizona Department of Corrections in 2000 after 25 years, which included assignments as Warden and Assistant Director. This latter position provided an opportunity to oversee state contracting/privatization of prisons.

Endnotes
  1. Guerino, P., Harrison, P. & Sabol, W. J., (2011). Prisoners in 2010. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved December 19, 2011 from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/p10.pdf
  2. Hughes, T. & Wilson, D. J. (2003). Re-entry Trends in the United States. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. December 5, 2004 from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/reentry.pdf
  3. Guerino, P., Harrison, P. & Sabol, W. J., (2011). Prisoners in 2010. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved December 19, 2011 from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/p10.pdf
  4. Guerino, P., Harrison, P. & Sabol, W. J., (2011). Prisoners in 2010. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved December 19, 2011 from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/p10.pdf
  5. Aos, Steve. (2003, January). The Criminal Justice System in Washington State: Incarceration Rates, Taxpayer Costs, Crime Rates, and Prison Economics. Washington State Institute for Public Policy http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/topic.asp?cat=18
  6. Aos, Steve. (2003, January). The Criminal Justice System in Washington State: Incarceration Rates, Taxpayer Costs, Crime Rates, and Prison Economics. Washington State Institute for Public Policy http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/topic.asp?cat=18
  7. Segal, G. F., and Moore, A. T. (January 2002). Weighing the Watchmen: Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Outsourcing Correctional Services—Part I: Employing a Best-Value Approach to Procurement; Part II: Reviewing the Literature on Costs and Quality Comparisons. Policy Study 289 and 290. Reason Public Policy Institute.
  8. Ohio Statute 9.06 Private operation and management of initial intensive program prison. A (4) Subject to division (I) of this section, before a public entity may enter into a contract under this section, the contractor shall convincingly demonstrate to the public entity that it can operate the facility with the inmate capacity required by the public entity and provide the services required in this section and realize at least a five per cent savings over the projected cost to the public entity of providing these same services to operate the facility that is the subject of the contract. No out-of-state prisoners may be housed in any facility that is the subject of a contract entered into under this section.
  9. Florida Statute 957.07. The enabling law requires a minimum cost savings threshold of 7%. The requirement reads, in relevant part: "The Department of Management Services may not enter into a contract or series of contracts, unless the department determines that the contract or series of contracts in total for the facility will result in a cost savings to the state of at least 7 percent over the public provision of a similar facility."
  10. Guerino, P., Harrison, P. M. & Sabol, W. J. (2012). Prisoners in 2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/p10.pdf
  11. Volokh, A. (May 2002). A Tale of Two Systems: Costs, Quality and Accountability in Private Prisons. Harvard Law Review. Vol 115, No. 7:1868-1891.
  12. Langan, P. A. & Levin, D. J. (2002). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Washington D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/reentry/recidivism.cfm.
  13. The Pew Center on the states. State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons. Retrieved April 25, 2011 From http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports /sentencing_and_corrections/State_Recidivism_Revolving _Door_America_Prisonspercent20.pdf
  14. National Governors Association. The State Fiscal Situation: The Lost Decade. Retrieved November 30, 2009 from http://www.nga.org/Files/pdf/0911FISCALLOSTDECADE.PDF
  15. Aos, Steve. (2003, January). The Criminal Justice System in Washington State: Incarceration Rates, Taxpayer Costs, Crime Rates, and Prison Economics. Washington State Institute for Public Policy http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/topic.asp?cat=18. The Pew Center on the States (2009). Beyond California-States in Peril. Retrieved December 1, 2009 from http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/report_detail.aspx?id=56044
  16. National Governors Association. The State Fiscal Situation: The Lost Decade. Retrieved November 30, 2009 from http://www.nga.org/Files/pdf/0911FISCALLOSTDECADE.PDF
  17. Schmitt, J. & Warner, K. (2011). Ex-offenders and the Labor Market. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Retrieved from http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf.
  18. Tahmincioglu, E (2012). Unable to get jobs, freed inmates return to jail. MSNBC online. Retreived from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35263313/ns/ business-careers/t/unable-get-jobs-freed-inmates-return-jail/
  19. Freeman, Richard B. 1991. “Crime and the Employment of Disadvantaged Youths.” NBER Working Paper No. 3875, Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research as used in Schmitt, J. & Warner, K. (2011). Ex-offenders and the Labor Market. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Retrieved from http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf.
  20. Tahmincioglu, E (2012). Unable to get jobs, freed inmates return to jail. MSNBC online. Retreived from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35263313/ns/business-careers/t/unable-get-jobs-freed-inmates-return-jail/
  21. Schmitt, J. & Warner, K. (2011). Ex-offenders and the Labor Market. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Retrieved from http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf.
  22. Schmitt, J. & Warner, K. (2011). Ex-offenders and the Labor Market. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Retrieved from http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf.
  23. Lee, S., Aos, S., Drake, E., Pennucci, A., Miller, M., & Anderson, L. (2012). Return on investment: Evidence-based options to improve statewide outcomes, April 2012 (Document No. 12-04-1201). Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Retrieved from http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/12-04-1201.pdf
  24. Steurer, S. and Smith, L (2003). Education Reduces Crime: Three-State Recidivism Study - Executive Summary. Correctional Education Association, Lanham, MD. Retrieved from http://www.mtctrains.com/public/uploads/1/2011/6/RP- Three-StateRecidivismStudy.pdf.


Comments:

  1. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

    Brandon was taken to an institution and allegedly was pressured to take drugs or else. His mother got on Facebook and exposed this not so rare incident. Some 20,000 have been civilly committed in Virginia, some without a warrant or even a search warrant. When former offenders are rounded up and incarcerated after the sentence ha expired, that was not a problem for those who were not affected at that time. Now it is the veterans and the Biblical Christians that need new ideology or re-programming it seems. The mother of Brandon went on Facebook and he is out now because of the media. It always starts with an unpopular group and now the veterans are being drugged and considered the right wing nut cases now. Most every veteran I meet seems to think that the media is one big propaganda machine. What a shame that Brandon was put in such a situation.

  2. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

    These are the beginning of the re-education camps in Virginia.

  3. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

    By redefining law veterans and former offenders have been brought into institutions without true due process.

  4. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

    Correction:witch doctor

  5. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

    This is why the veteran who had a different view than the thought police was going to be placed on drugs until a wise judge intervened a few days ago. one drugs are into the system of a person they are easily programmed away from the pain of reality. This veteran had been imprinted with the things he ha been through. Drug us whether legal or illegal alter one's personality through empathy. The word pharmaceutical comes from sorcery. Even a with doctor in tribal countries understands that principle. The "run" or "fight" psychological principle is not enough. A quick study of the Stockholm Syndrome will reveal this reason that proves both concepts do not work. If this soldier is put on drugs and his mind is altered he can get his gun rights removed as a veteran This cannot be a fluke of law.

  6. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

    The right to own property is the basis of all freedom. When the mob of government regulates the property of another they think the do the collective a favor as the ideologically seduce the ignorant of the basis for all Common Law, away from common sense and the Constitutional Republic. We get privileges from government and rights from the Creator. The progressive looks the the collective as savior but is the mini-me of the self in reality.

  7. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

    Jail is Jail. No matter what face on puts on it. Jails are not created by bars or electronic fences. One can incarcerate the body but never the spirit. Man is not a monkey. Man has body, soul and spirit. An animal needs incarceration and survive by doing the food chain. My daughter put on her face before she went out to create an image. The black widow spider wiggles in her web to get her mate and after she propagates she will eat her prey when finished. The progressive politician knows what the public wants by "feelings". The neo-conservative plays the face of the male. Both lie with the public as they lie to the public to get exalted and draw in the votes. When the progressive runs out of individuals to steal from on a collective basis they will start to devour each other in a political way. Then the public will blame them for the issue politically that they themselves have created. It is those on the right that is responsible for the chaos that we have in politics today. The blame game goes on and on. A male child is born of woman and an authority by inheritance. When that authority is stolen from him by trauma the male will seek secular power to replace his natural authority that he procured by simply being born of woman. His soul the puts his spirit in bondage and the act of the will as a replacement of natural authority will then seek power later as a politician or a mobster. Both need external goal based sources to offer the support needed to support the EGO as they Edge GOD Out to replace such with narcissism. Stealing is stealing whether on does it by grinding the middle class away through taxation and inflation and the middle class simply disappears and a regime is created. Most democracies last a couple of hundred years and then the progressive look to the dog of government as if it is savior and the progressive will wear that mask just as a woman used make-up to cover the real beauty of a meek and quiet spirit. Once the masks are removed they will show the true motivation and the true addicting power that requires one to either smother inmates with pseudo enabling love or become cruel and harsh to remain in power. The sycophants are of the same seed as those they "help". The family unit has priority of positions and borders and when a society removes those protections that individual becomes part of the mob mentality of tribalism in the food chain.

  8. Fred Davis on 08/24/2012:

  9. irish assassin on 08/21/2012:

    Sorry to bring up the cold hard facts but private or "contracted" prisons as you call them are held less accountable, don't save any real money and provide substandard services. To much REAL WORLD evidence exists to argue much of anything else.

  10. sayjack on 08/21/2012:

    Balderdash!! You can't change someone who doesn't want to change. Besides, who says prisons should be a place of rehabilitation? Prisons have worked fine over the past 30 years warehousing criminals for long periods of time. Oops! I'm not suppose to say that. I must be a bad person, or worse -- stupid because I have a different opinion. Look at the fact that crime across the board is down over the same period of time that the rehabilitation model was abandoned and the control or security model was initiated. I can understand the public wanting its safety at the lowest possible price, but private prisons with their promise of low operating cost and low recidivism rates is a confab created by those who stand to benefit the most monetarily. I'll give you a hint as to who they are; they don't live in the middle or lower class neighborhoods and when their policies fail and crime is rising, their neighborhoods will be surrounded by fences and patrolled by armed guards. But hey, with the money they stand to make, they can afford such luxuries. I just can't seem to bring myself to believe that recidivism rates are the fault of the prison system. Who made that rule? After Robert Martinson let the cat out of the bag in the 60's with his "What Works? - Questions and Answers About Prison Reform" everything changed. But now, like a pendulum, policy makers are swinging back in the directions they came from. Why? Maybe they just forgot what scientist found out 30 years ago. Maybe someone found a new way to make a buck. Don’t be fooled. Criminals in prison are not misunderstood. They are exactly where they should be – behind bars away from law abiding citizens. Giving them programs after programs has been tried before in abundance and it does not work. Here is my theory on why the recidivism rate is so high – because the criminal justice system is doing a great job of identifying criminals in the first place. Eventually, these criminals make several rounds in the prison system then age out – get older and settle down. It just seems to me that as a society, we were on the cusp of breaking the criminal cycle that has plagued us here in the U.S. for far too long. But now, because we have blamed the very prison systems that have given us such long period of low crime, I fear that crime will rise. The streets will become more and more unsafe and like I said earlier – it will be us in the middle and lower classes that will have to face the terrible outcome of such a failed policy. Even worse, these policies failed before, but we are letting them do it again.

  11. Fred Davis on 08/20/2012:

    People get the government they deserve.

  12. Fred Davis on 08/20/2012:

    Democracy is mob rule without the restraints of a republic. What we have here is a politically incestuous relationship between industry owned by government through grants from the Federal Government. The middle class is being scraped away by inflation and taxation. It may be too late because both parties are working "both ends from the middle in this house of cards. The tipping point has arrived.

  13. Librarian on 08/15/2012:

    This very well written article with 24 references sounds too good to be true; it is. The record on the inability of ANYBODY to hold private prisons accountable is not mentioned. What it boils down to is the classic question of this decade. Who do you trust more, private corporations or democratic representative government? There are many bumper stickers that state, "I love my country but fear my government". Perhaps there should be the counter bumper sticker, "I love economic freedom but fear multinational corporations". Turning prison operations over to private business with a bottom line profit motive is a formula for corruption. The United States is rapidly transforming from a democracy representing people to a plutocracy representing corporations. The privatization of prisons is just one more example of selling out to the highest bidder, public service be damned.


Login to let us know what you think

User Name:   

Password:       


Forgot password?





correctsource logo




Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of The Corrections Connection User Agreement
The Corrections Connection ©. Copyright 1996 - 2018 © . All Rights Reserved | 15 Mill Wharf Plaza Scituate Mass. 02066 (617) 471 4445 Fax: (617) 608 9015