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Public versus Private Prison Systems

The research study aims to address how public and private prison systems operate in the United States. According to Bauer & Johnston (2020), Hypothesis 1 questioned whether “publicly owned facilities will perform better than privately owned facilities” (p. 5). In the literature review, Bauer & Johnston (2020) measured detention facility confinement qualities between public and privately owned prisons. The confinement quality dimensions and corresponding ICE performance indicators were safety, security, conditions, order, assaults, disturbances, deficient standards, and grievances received (Bauer & Johnston, 2020). Hypothesis 1a stated that “the dimensions of safety, security, conditions, and order, the performance of Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) facilities, operated by states and local governments, will be better than the performance of Contracted Detention Facilities (CDFs), which are privately owned” (Bauer & Johnston, 2020, p. 5). Hypothesis 1a described variables being tested between the public and private prisons to determine the reliability of their services. Similarly, Hypothesis 1b stated, “on the dimensions of safety, security, conditions, and order, the performance of Service Processing” (Bauer & Johnston, 2020, p. 5). The researchers asked these questions, and quantitative data were collected from state-level systems and privately owned systems.

This study was based on an unbalanced panel-based regression approach to test the effects of prison ownership and the performance quality measures of the prisons (Bauer & Johnston, 2020). The research design is set into tables that can be easily compared with the independent variables. The estimated linear probability modeling for the four-confinement quality dependent variables. The results of table 5 suggest that in private facilities, confinement quality is better in publicly owned facilities (Bauer & Johnston, 2020). The researchers discovered that public facilities were statistically significant only for the assaults and grievances received models. The research design gave representative detainees of the population, including Hispanic minorities and the county labor pool.

The research problem and hypothesis questions align to determine what type of data should be collected and what policy options to implement (Burkholder et al., 2019). The initial popular concepts used between public and private prison systems were outlined in the literature review. The literature review also included other research that supported the independent variables on the public and private prison systems. The research study contributes to scholarly practice in the complex intergovernmental and intersectoral policy area (Bauer & Johnston, 2020). The research can help policymakers theorize if government contracting will improve the efficiency of prison confinements for a diverse population of inmates (Bauer & Johnston, 2020). Overall, the research suggests that ICEs public managers should expand the state and local facilities for detention services but limit reliance on private contractors. Other limitations on assaults and grievances filed in the public systems should be addressed as a new policy plan. Creating new facilities would be a positive change and enhance the quality of confinement (Bauer & Johnston, 2020).


Bauer, Z., & Johnston, J.M. (2020). Who does it better? Comparing immigration detention facility performance in an intergovernmental and intersectoral context. Public Administration Review, 80(2), 244-258.

Burkholder, G. J., Cox, K. A., Crawford, L. M., & Hitchcock, J. H. (2019). Research Design and Methods. SAGE Publications, Inc. (US).

Statista (n.d.). Prisoners in the United States - Statistics & Facts.

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