Economics at your fingertips  

Private vs. public prisons? A dynamic analysis of the long-term tradeoffs between cost-efficiency and recidivism in the US prison system

Saleh Mamun, Xiaoxue Li (), Brady Horn () and Janie Chermak

Applied Economics, 2020, vol. 52, issue 41, 4499-4511

Abstract: Compared with the rest of the world, the US prison system is characterized by high incarceration rates, high recidivism, and substantial incarceration costs. The US has increasingly turned to private prisons, resulting in a debate concerning the efficacy of these private prisons. While the private system may produce cost savings it may have also have negative consequences including increased recidivism. Although numerous studies have investigated the cost savings associated with private prisons and their effect on recidivism, to our knowledge no work has evaluated the joint impact. In this paper we evaluate these impacts jointly within a dynamic system model, utilizing cost, incarceration and recidivism estimates from the literature. Overall, considering the tradeoff between cost efficiency and recidivism rates, we find that public prisons are less costly in the long term than private prisons. Considering a 25-year time horizon, we find that total inflation-adjusted costs are approximately 1.5% higher for private prisons than public prisons. Considering a 40-year time horizon, we find that private prisons are 3% more costly than public prisons. Thus, results suggest that estimated short-term cost efficiency provided by private prisons may not be worth the long-term consequences of potential increases in recidivism.

Date: 2020
References: Add references at CitEc
Citations: Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link) (text/html)
Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from

DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2020.1736501

Access Statistics for this article

Applied Economics is currently edited by Anita Phillips

More articles in Applied Economics from Taylor & Francis Journals
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Chris Longhurst ().

Page updated 2023-03-26
Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:52:y:2020:i:41:p:4499-4511