Vanderbilt Law Review


Cathy E. Holley

First Page



The incarceration of convicted criminals is an important matter to law enforcement officials and the public at large. Institutional correctional services consume significant governmental energy and resources. In 1983 corrections, including jails, prisons, probation, and parole, cost over 10.4 billion dollars. In 1985 approximately 503,000 people were imprisoned in federal and state correctional facilities.' The provision of prison services must occur on a continuous basis, and space must be available for every convicted criminal. As certain commentators have noted, "[o]ne cannot simply let offenders wait in line for an opening."'Historically, local, state, and federal government has overseen and operated our nation's prisons. In operating correctional facilities, public administrators currently face numerous concerns, including overcrowding, escalating costs, and increased demand for prison space. The contracting of prison services to private companies offers government a possible solution to these problems. The concept of privatization, however, is one of the most controversial topics in the field of corrections today. Federal and state governments already have taken advantage of the cost effectiveness offered by private vendors in operating aftercare facilities or supplying specific institutional services. In the past, private companies also have designed and built prison facilities for the government to manage. The new element to the current movement proposes that private companies both build the facilities and oversee their operation on a contractual, for-profit basis