Private Prisons and Public Accountability
"Though there are a growing number of books, articles and research studies on the growth of private prisons, this is the first one I have seen which successfully integrates a reasoned discussion of principles with the presentation of authoritative data on how privatisation is working in practice." - Mike Maguire, University of Wales, Cardiff. Private prisons have become an integral part of the penal system in the USA, the UK and Australia. Already, there are over 100 such prisons, and with prisoner numbers continuing to increase rapidly the trend towards privatization seems irreversible. In this context, the following questions must be addressed: can private prisons make a positive contribution to providing custody for offenders? Do private prisons stimulate improvement within the public prison system? What are the difficulties with the regulation and accountability of private prisons? This book sets out to explore the contribution private prisons may make to custodial practices, standards and objectives.
The hypothesis is that, properly regulated and fully accountable, private prisons could lead to improvement within the public prison system, which has for so long been degenerate and demoralised. In this regard, the total prison system should be seen as a single entity, with two service delivery components: public and private. The challenge is to ensure that cross-fertilisation between those two components actually takes place. However, none of the positive effects will flow unless there is effective accountability of the private sector component. The main focus of the book is upon experience in the USA, the UK and Australia. The author has undertaken extensive fieldwork in each of these countries, and he draws upon not just published literature but in-house documentation, discussions with public and private authorities, and a range of governmental documents. The approach is thematic rather than comparative. Key issues such as overcrowding, programme delivery, prisoners' rights, quality of staff and financial control are identified and illustrative material is brought forward from one or more of the main countries examined.
The book is therefore unlikely to date as the use of current examples is merely the flesh on the bones of enduring issues. The importance of this book goes beyond its immediate topic. It is a significant addition to the criminal justice literature but will also appeal as a contribution to social policy in general and to the growing privatisation literature that spans several academic fields.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"In this excellent and timely study, Professor Harding provides a vast quantity of material to re-fuel the debate concerning private prisons. He reviews the shifts of various national and international jurisdictions into private prison contracting and management, and examines the thorny issues associated with ensuring accountability when divestiture to private concerns occurs." - ANZ Journal of Criminology "Though there are a growing number of books, articles and research studies on the growth of private prisons, thisis the first one I have seen which successfully integrates a reasoneddiscussion of principles with the presentation of authoritative data on how privatisation is working in practice." - Mike Maguire,University of Wales, Cardiff