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Are Florida’s Private Prisons Keeping their Promise? Lack of Evidence to Show They Cost Less and Have Better Outcomes than Public Prisons

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Over the past 20 years, states have begun to contract with private companies to provide a number of services that had traditionally been government functions performed by public employees. For the most part, supporters of privatization have argued that subjecting various functions to market competition would result in lower costs to taxpayers and higher levels of effectiveness. Child welfare services, concessions in state parks, food services and student transportation in some school districts, and human resource management functions for state agencies are some functions that have been privatized in Florida.

Another area where privatization has taken place in Florida is the operation of adult prisons. The professed potential for cost savings and improved effectiveness when prisons are privatized had a strong appeal to policy-makers. However, the process implemented to gauge compliance with these policy objectives in Florida is flawed and as a result the evidence to show that private prisons cost less to operate or are more effective at reducing recidivism than public prisons is questionable.