Private Prisons: The Convict Lease System

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Private prisons have a long history. In the 1880s private correctional organiza- tions created the Convict Lease System, perhaps the first privatized prison sys- tem in America. Implemented primarily in the Southern States during the recon- struction period, this system consisted of private organizations leasing out prisoners to work for other companies, such as the railroad and construction industries. Private correctional systems took full responsibility for housing and monitoring prison behavior. The system freed states from providing a budget for state run prisons. Indeed, states received a portion of the money income prisoners made, and thus, the system generated a profit (Reed, 1907). Despite the plus to the state budget, a negative…show more content…
The PIE-Program allowed states to sell prison-made goods across state lines for a profit. The program required that inmates were paid a comparable wage, that portions of the profits were used to compensate victims, and that the program was used to teach inmates work skills. In short, the PIE-program was initially used by public prisons as a vocational treat- ment program and as a means to increase public prison revenue. Thus, the legislation itself did not legalize privately run prisons, but it did open the gateway for states to determine if private prisons could operate in their borders (Herraiz, 2004). Thus, the PIE-Program is known as the legislation that made it possible for private organizations to provide correctional services previ- ously operated by public…show more content…
Texas was the first state, in 1983, to allow private organi- zations to run some of its correctional facilities, followed by Florida and Tennessee. In less than a decade, the popularity of prisons-for-profit had grown exponentially. In 1984 only three states had privatized some of their prisons; however, by 1994 thirty states contracted with private or- ganizations to house some of their inmates, while the private prison population grew from 20,000 to over 140,000 within a decade. Lastly, the number of sites significantly increased. For instance, Cheung (2002) writes, "As of December 2000, there were 153 private correctional facilities (prisons, jails and detention centers) operating in the United States with a capacity of over 119,000." Additionally, California began with one private prison in the 1980s, and by 2005 had 22 sites, topped only by Texas, which during this same time-frame had increased from one site to 42 sites by 2005 (Price,

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