The Birth of Private Prisons

o   17th Century: Prison privatization was a common practice in Europe. Amsterdam and Hamburg are said to be the origins of private prisons. These privatized facilities profited by charging for fees for admittances, discharge, food, water, and lodging (Blakely & Bumphus, 1997).

o   1700s & 1800s: Public officials thought prisons could be self-sufficient and possibly profitable for the state. Additionally, private businesses were interested in sharing the profits of the prison because inmates could be a source of cheap and manual labor. As a result, private individuals and businesses began to build, manage, and supervise day-to-day operations of the prison (Anderson, 2009).

o   1825: Because Kentucky was having financial issues, Joel Scott, a private individual, paid the state $1,000 to operate a 250-bed facility. Scott built and operated this prison facility and profited from the work of inmates (Schneider, 2000).

o   1851: Due to the increase of settlers, California could no longer keep up with the increase of crime and inmates. As a result, California leased its prison to two local businessmen for 10 years.

o   1866: Louisiana leased the operation of a prison for 5 years in exchange for $50,000 (Schneider, 2000).

o   1866: Because Tennessee was suffering from financial problems, the Nashville prison contracted with a furniture company in which the company paid 43 cents per day per prisoner (Schneider, 2000).

o   1896: The Arizona Canal Company, a private company, contracted with Arizona to control the daytime operation of the prison. For 10 years, male inmates worked for the company at a rate of 70 cents per day (Schneider, 2000).

o   1908: Oklahoma inmates built McAlester Prison which included an industrial factory and a farm (Schneider, 2000).

The Fall of Private Prisons

o   1842: New York passed legislation to end public-private partnerships in prison. By the end of the century, most states followed this trend (Schneider, 2000).

§  1867: Tennessee ended their lease after one year because a prison riot burned the furniture factory (Schneider, 2000).

§  1891-1892: Miners raided prisons where inmates worked for mining companies because the privatization caused economic hardships for the free miners (Schneider, 2000).

§  Alabama believed privatization cause good inmate workers to be given longer sentences (Schneider, 2000).

§  Privatized prisons in Texas were blamed for excessive inmate deaths and injuries (Schneider, 2000).

§  The privatized prisons in California led to corruption, such as the selling of pardons (Schneider, 2000).

o   1929: The Roosevelt administration created the Hawes-Cooper Act which prohibited the entry of prison-made goods produced by another state (Gallagher & Edwards, 1997).

o   1936: The Walsh-Healy Act prohibited privatized inmate labor contracts that exceeded $10,000 (Gallagher & Edwards, 1997).

o   1940: The Sumners-Ashurt Act prohibited the transportation of prison-made goods across state lines (Gallagher & Edwards, 1997).

o   By the beginning of World War II, public-private partnerships became nonexistent (Gallagher & Edwards, 1997).

Reemergence of Private Prisons

o   Compared to the 19th century, privatization of prisons mostly involved local business while the 1990s, national and international corporations were the most involved (Schneider, 2000).

o   1970s & 1980s: The resurge of privatization initially involved inmate educational, food and medical care services but soon included privatization of entire jails and prisons when the Federal Bureau of Prisons began to outsource (Anderson, 2009).

o   1980s: Governments began to contract with private businesses to operate half-way houses, juvenile facilities, undocumented immigrant detention centers, and work-release programs (Antonuccio, 2008).

o   1984: Hamilton County facility in Tennessee was contracted to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private corporation (Anderson, 2009).

o   1984: CCA opened the Houston Processing Center to house adult illegal immigrants for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Jing, 2010).

o   1988: CCA designed, financed, constructed, and operated the first private facility for females in New Mexico.

o   1986: Kentucky contracted with CCA to house state inmates (Jing, 2010).

o   By 1996, 13 states privatized some portion of their penal system (Anderson, 2009).

o   By 2004, 34 states outsourced a section of their penal system (Anderson, 2009).

o   Illinois and New York are the only states that have legislation banning private prison contracts (Anderson, 2009).