Skip navigation
PYHS - Header

PLN managing editor criticizes Temple University private prison study

Detroit Free Press, Jan. 1, 2013.
PLN managing editor criticizes Temple University private prison study - Detroit Free Press 2013

Feedback: Pro-private prison piece left out key bit of information

June 28, 2013

In a June 7 guest column, Temple University professors Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone discussed their research that found cost savings and equal or better performance by for-profit prison companies. Based upon their research findings, they suggested that the State of Michigan consider prison privatization as a “proven solution.”

Michigan doesn’t have a privately operated prison, although the Legislature recently approved a bill that would allow prisoners to be housed at the privately owned North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin. While we’ll always need to incarcerate offenders who commit crimes, there is no reason to have privatized prisons that profit from keeping people locked up; comparatively, we don’t have a privatized police force that profits according to the number of arrests made.

Notably, Hakim and Blackstone neglected to mention that their research lauding the benefits of prison privatization was funded by “members of the private corrections industry,” according to an April 29 news release issued by Temple University. Likewise, their research paper itself — which has not been published in a journal or been peer-reviewed — fails to note that it was funded by private prison firms.

I contacted two professors of ethics who both indicated that the authors of academic research funded by for-profit companies have an ethical obligation to identify the funding source in any resulting research paper or study.

In short, the public has a right to know when academic research is funded by for-profit companies that directly benefit from the results of that research.

It is remarkable how studies that are funded by private prison firms frequently find cost savings or other benefits through prison privatization, while research that does not receive industry funding typically reports no such benefits.

Research and reports by government agencies have found equivocal or no cost savings, higher levels of violence, higher staff turnover rates and a host of other problems with private prisons. As just one example, a September 2010 report by Arizona’s Office of the Auditor General determined that private prisons in that state were more expensive to operate than public prisons after adjusting for comparable costs.

Corrections Corporation of America is already citing the Temple study in the company’s promotional materials aimed at potential investors, while GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison firm, is also promoting the study. Unsurprisingly, both companies provided funding for the study, though they don’t mention that fact.

Alex Friedmann

President of the Private Corrections Institute, which opposes prison privatization

The Habeas Citebook: Prosecutorial Misconduct Side
PLN Subscribe Now Ad 450x450
Protecting You Health & Safety Litigation Guide Footer