The number of state and federal prisoners has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, but public willingness to finance prisons has not kept pace. One response has been a renewed inter- est in privately managed prisons. Proponents of privatization contend that private contractors, unencumbered by government procurement and personnel procedures, can provide better qual- ity prison services at lower costs. This article uses the 1995 Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities to examine claims of improved quality. The authors find that privately managed prisons perform better on some, but not all, measures of quality of confinement. Spe- cifically, bivariate comparisons suggest that private facilities outperform both state and federal facilities in terms of the proportion of institutions that are able to avoid inmate assaults on staff members or other inmates. Even when the authors controlled for other causal variables, private prisons remained significantly less likely than federal prisons to experience violence.
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