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International Growth Trends in Prison Privatization

While “privatization has enjoyed a steady reemergence in the United States, the companies managing these facilities have faced persistent criticism for providing low-quality services, failing to save taxpayer money, and negatively affecting criminal justice policy. Despite these failures, several countries have followed the United States in utilizing private prisons and detention centers with the intent of decreasing correctional expenditures and reducing prison overcrowding. These developments have helped private U.S. prison companies diversify their investments at a time when America’s prison population growth has stalled ... [unfortunately] these companies have thrived off of the expanded privatization of prisons, immigration detention systems, and other governmental services, while often failing to deliver on the services that were promised” (p. 1). This report looks at the increasing use of for-profit prison privatization around the world. Topics discussed include: the extent of international privatization; percent of prisoners held privately; privatization trends in selected countries-Australia, Scotland, England and Wales, New Zealand, and South Africa; number of prisoners held publically and privately for Australia, Scotland, England and Wales, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States; number of publically and privately held immigrant detainees in the United Kingdom; and concerns over privatization related to substandard service, unlikely financial benefits, and government policies guaranteeing higher incarceration rates resulting in more privatization contracts.