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Timothy Roufa

Prison Privatization: Good, Bad or Ugly?

By February 10, 2013

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There appears to be a growing interest in the privatization of prisons around the United States. The thinking, logically enough, is that private companies can run prison operations more efficiently and less costly than the government. Motivated by profit, corporations will be far more inclined to do things cheaper, faster and better.

This kind of talk has lead some to wonder if there aren't other government functions that can be privatized -- including law enforcement and forensic investigations. Some, myself included, wonder if there aren't some things private companies shouldn't do, and some services that should be the sole responsibility of governments to take on.

Public safety is not a private matter; it is in everyone's best interest to contribute toward ensuring we are all safe to move about freely in furtherance of commerce and pursuit of liberty. Sometimes, the only motivation that should be necessary is simply to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. This is the ultimate goal of public safety professionals.

When there's a profit to be had, motives get cloudy. Prison officials and corrections officers may be enticed to cut corners to help boost the bottom line. When the final motivation is not public safety, then we are all at risk. What do you think?

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