In class this week, we learned about Bureaucracies. A bureaucracy is an organization with a clear hierarchy of authority, employees with specific job titles and descriptions, and formal procedures for hiring, promoting, and firing workers. Bureaucracies are often seen as inefficient and are, therefore, frequently reformed. For example, the state run Department of Motor Vehicles is often considered unresponsive and inefficient for its long lines, compared to McDonalds with many shorter lines and a manual for structured operation. Is this proof that public bureaucracies should look and operate even more like private bureaucracies?
Well, let’s look at the example of prisons. It is a common belief that private prisons are more cost-efficient; however, privatized prisons can prove to have major problems, especially concerning the health of their prisoners. For example, in private prisons, prisoners are often in crowded facilities and their food rations are cut back to reduce costs. These inhumane conditions would certainly be less likely in a state-run correctional facility. The Arizona Department of Corrections revealed research that private prisons house only relatively healthy inmates, which helps them appear less expensive.
Contrary to popular belief, privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons. Russ Van Vleet, a former co-director of the University of Utah Criminal Justice Center stated, “There’s a perception that the private sector is always going to do it more efficiently and less costly, but there really isn’t much our there that says that’s correct.” Nationally, the number of state inmates in private prisons grew by a third over the past decade. While private prisons collect a “daily rate” per inmate, some expenses are disproportionately distributed. In conclusion to all my research, I have found what Steve Owen, spokesman for the largest operator, Corrections Corporation of America, states as “a mixed bag of research…it’s not as black and white and cut and dried as we would like.”