Study finds no advantage to prison privatization

By By Arthur Raymond

By Arthur Raymond

U social work professor Brad Lundahl submitted research findings to a Utah law enforcement committee at the state capitol comparing private and public prison facilities on Sept. 19.

The Utah Criminal Justice Center at the S.J. Quinney College of Law conducted the study which indicated that no clear advantage was apparent in the comparison of prison operations.

Lundahl’s presentation outlined the study’s parameters, evaluating each of the approaches for advantages and disadvantages in cost effectiveness and quality of confinement issues.

In a discussion following Lundahl’s presentation, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee co-chair Sen. Jon Greiner, R-Ogden, made note of the anticipated prison capacity issues created by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

The Adam Walsh Act was signed into law by President George Bush in 2006. The legislation made changes to how sex offenders are classified, and its new stricter requirements are expected to result in a higher incarceration rate for offenders.

A Department of Justice document found at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2008/justice.html outlines budget changes expected in 2008. It indicates increased budgets for federal law enforcement, including “$8 million to aggressively pursue apprehension of sexual predators under the provisions of the Adam Walsh Act.”

Executive Director of the Utah Department of Corrections Tom Patterson urged the committee not to “throw out the idea of privatization” despite the UCJC’s research findings.

In an interview after the hearing, Lundahl commented that the study was the most current and thorough academic analysis of private versus public prison operations that he is aware of.

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