skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 228029 Find in a Library
Title: Costs and Benefits of Privatization Can Be Tricky to Assess
Series: NIJ Update
Author(s): Gerry Gaes
Corporate Author: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
US Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
United States of America
Date Published: 2008
Page Count: 2
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper reports on two cost and performance comparisons funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that involved four prisons, one privately operated and three publicly operated.
Abstract: The two studies reached different conclusions about the extent of the cost savings of privatization. The lesson learned is that cost comparisons are complex, and great care must be taken when comparing the costs of privately and publicly operated prisons. The two studies, one conducted by Abt and the other by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP), offer an opportunity for the research and public policy communities to examine the different approaches that were used, why the results differed, and how this could inform the prison privatization debate. There are two primary reasons that the two studies differed in their findings: the way inmate population sizes were handled and the factors included in overhead costs, such as indirect costs of office supervision, computer services, and budget development. Prison administrators and policymakers who are considering taxpayer benefits of prison privatization should consider the specific analytical assumptions that underlie any studies they examine. Even if private and public prisons cost the same, it is important to examine whether the quality of their performance may differ. The Abt and BOP studies reported on objective indicators of performance. Some of these favored the private operations, and others favored the public operations. One of the limitations of this set of studies was the absence of a common audit procedure for comparing the performance of the publicly and privately operated prisons. Such audits could and should be used in comparing privately and publicly operated prisons. 1 table and 5 notes
Main Term(s): Corrections research
Index Term(s): Corrections costs; Cost effectiveness analysis; Privatization; Privatization in corrections
Note: Reprinted with permission of the American Correctional Association, Corrections Today, October 2008.
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.