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Pitfalls and Promises: The Real Risks to Residents and Taxpayers of Privatizing Prisons and Prison Services in Michigan

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A Problem with No Easy Solution

Everyone is frustrated. Corrections spending just won’t come down. The prison population has been reduced, and corrections staff have been cut. Hard choices have been made. Risks have been taken, and sacrifices have been borne—but results remain elusive.

Legislators are looking for new ideas. Private groups such as the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC), the Center for Michigan and the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS) have proposed ideas such as establishing a sentencing commission, expediting the parole process, and increased use of medical/geriatric parole—to name a few.

Industry groups, meanwhile, are pushing to turn Michigan prisons over to for-profit companies. Privatization, however, is not a promising path. To understand why, this report examines the privatization of prisons and prison functions.

The report begins with Michigan’s experience with private prisons then expands to other states’ experience. The focus is on costs and performance, paying special attention to the GEO Group, the private prison company most active in the state of Michigan.

The report also reviews contracted correctional healthcare—again focusing on Michigan’s own experience, the experience in other states and Corizon, the company currently active in Michigan.