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January 28, 2022

"Private Prison Companies and Sentencing"

The title of this post is the title of this paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Amy Pratt, a recent graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  (This paper is yet another in the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.)  Here is this paper's abstract:

The use of private prisons in the United States to house federal and state inmates has added a voice to sentencing practice.  This voice is unnecessary and should not exist as a concern in sentencing law and policy.  Private prisons affect sentencing at the policy level through lobbying, networking, and by influence over judges’ sentencing decisions in individual cases.  These methods of influencing sentencing are not always blatant, but they do exist.  The United States should end the use of private prisons or adopt a hybrid model similar to that used in Europe to help quiet this unnecessary voice. However, eliminating the use of private prisons will not end the United States’ mass incarceration problem.  Policy makers must address other causes of mass incarceration along with ending the use of private prisons. 

This paper will explore the history of private prisons in the United States, how private prisons influence sentencing, and potential solutions to end or improve the use of private prisons, while addressing the larger causes of mass incarceration.  The suggested solution explored at the end of this paper is for the United States to develop and implement a hybrid model similar to that used in France, which eliminates completely private prisons, but still uses some private entities in the prison system.  Eliminating private interests from the prison system entirely is unrealistic and unlikely given their long history of presence in the United States criminal justice system.

January 28, 2022 at 11:37 AM | Permalink


I support closing private prisons as a start to ending mass incarceration. Then jurisdictions can start closing state facilities. Legislators would have to pass laws changing sentencing guidelines too.

Posted by: anon | Jan 28, 2022 8:42:50 PM

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