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February 26, 2016

"Internalizing Private Prison Externalities: Let's Start with the GED"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting and timely new piece by David Siegel recently posted on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Prison education is a remarkably good investment for society, yet an increasing proportion of inmates have no access to it because the operators of the prisons in which they are held have a powerful incentive not to provide it: they make more money that way.  Critics and analysts of private prison operators have suggested various incentive structures to improve their performance, but most jurisdictions focus on the operator’s cost to the contracting entity. The social costs imposed by foregoing prison education are not part of the arrangement between a private prison operator and a jurisdiction with which it contracts.  Although these costs are real and substantial to the inmates who bear them, because the inmates are not parties to the contract, these costs are externalities.

Imposing these social costs on prison operators could improve the conditions for inmates in their custody and is very likely to improve these inmates’ success after release. Unlike more complex strategies for imposing incentives on correctional programs to reduce recidivism, prison education is a known, straightforward rehabilitative strategy whose provision can be measured quite easily at the point of release.  There is even a well-accepted metric for prison education administered by an independent third party: the General Educational Development Test (GED).  This article proposes using the GED to internalize the cost of reduced or poor inmate education by imposing financial penalties on private prison operators whose inmates do not obtain, or make progress toward, a GED during their incarceration. This would provide the social benefits of inmate education, alter private prison operators’ behavior at minimal administrative cost, and most importantly, benefit inmates being released.

February 26, 2016 at 09:04 AM | Permalink


Private prisons need to go away, along with ObamaCare and all the federal give away programs that last forever. Once your on the federal gravy train, its forever or a very long time.

Ged might help somewhat, but its actual job skills that would turn the corner. America doesnt have the skill set anymore to keep manufacturing companies afloAt.

Need Cnc, cad training, welding, blue print reading, electrical, plumbing, hvac.
These arenot resource intense areas. If the feds cut the sentence dramarically if these guys completed a few long term WORTHWHILE coarses, not the micky mouse type that the govt currently has, then we have turned the corner.

It doesnt rake Wiley Coyotie super genious to figure out, if guys come out with no skill set, odds of returning are high. Why cant our over bloated govt get it.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Feb 26, 2016 9:22:39 AM

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