Is It Ethical for Prisons to Be Privately Owned?

Published: 2021-06-23
1153 words
5 pages
10 min to read
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Argumentative essay
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The purpose of prisons is to ensure that criminals are taken away from the society so that there is peace in the society. The prisons also enable the criminals to reform so that when they leave the prisons, they do not go back to their criminal behaviors any more. The government has the mandate of ensuring that there are prisons and that the prisons are well managed. However, there is the option of ensuring that prisons are owned by the private business and that the businesses are interested in making profits. The aim of this paper is to argue for the case for privatization of prisons, and this will also be supported by an ethical theory.

First, privatization of prisons would be an easy way of eliminating the burden that the citizens bear to maintain the prisoners. Criminals offend the people, and the same people pay taxes so that the prisoners get the various services that they need. This is unfair, and it can be eliminated if the prisons are privately owned such that the costs of managing the prisons is transferred from the government (Price, & Morris, 2012). The funds that could have been used to manage prisons are thus used to develop the economy by facilitating implementation of various development projects that are important.

Secondly, private prisons would ensure that there is better treatment of the prisoners. The problem is that the budget that is allocated to prisons management is fixed, and the institutions have to ignore some important aspects of the prisons that would need cash. In some other cases, the beds in prisons are limited, and this would mean that the prisoners live together. Such conditions are dangerous to the prisoners who are also human beings. Private prisons would allocate their resources well to ensure that all the basic aspects of prisons are effectively financed. This ensures that there are good houses, enough beds, better healthcare for the prisoners and this avoids disasters that would happen in the prisons (Hallett, 2006). It should be noted that those who take care of the prisons would be affected if disasters such disease outbreak happened.

The private prisons are in business and would thus come up with programs that would ensure that apart from making money, they enable the prisoners to reform. The private prisons would train the employees in various programs and then find jobs that the prisoners can do so that revenue is generated to meet the costs of running the prisons. The prisoners would also be trained on other aspects that would enable them to change their behavior such that they integrate well in the society after the end of their sentence. When individuals leave prisons, they are ready to work and better their lives because they acquire skills that are needed. The prison managers and owners are aware that they are accountable for developing programs that help the prisoners to reform (Price, & Morris, 2012). This is as opposed to the government that would not be accountable to anyone such that the effectiveness of the programs that they have cannot be evaluated.

Though having private prisons is a good idea to many, there has been critics who are against the ideas. They present their own arguments of the reasons why the idea is not good. The first argument is that whoever punishes another person, or mistreats them, then they engage in a crime that should be punished by the government. The government is thus the only body that is obliged by the law to punish criminals. It is illegal for the private institutions to punish the criminals.

The argument is flawed and is not reasonable to belief in. First, it is true that the government has the role of punishing the criminals. However, this does not mean that the government does not have the power to delegate the duties to another body. There is nothing wrong if the government delegated the duties and the duties are implemented in a better way than the government could do the job. Again, prisons do not serve the purpose of punishing, but offer an environment for the criminals to reform so that they can be back to the society (Price, & Morris, 2012). The private prisons can do the job better and assigning them the task is thus a good idea.

The other criticism is that the private prisons give the prisoners a better environment which is not the purpose of the prisons. The prisoners get better food, better housing, and better education. This means that they do not get the punishment that they deserve. The government prisons are more effective because the food is limited and not good and the social amenities are not all that good (Price, 2006).

The criticism is wrong considering that the role of prisons is to punish the criminals, by limiting their right to liberty and socialization. The fact is that the prisoners do not have the freedom of movement or socialization with other people in the society which is a reasonable punishment. The harsh conditions in the government prisons are motivated by the limited funds that are availed to the prisons (Price, 2006).

Utilitarianism is one of the ethical theories that is applied in various decision-making activities. Its argument is that any decision or act is ethical if it results in the benefit of the majority in the society. In this case, the private prisons benefit the government, the society and the prisoners themselves and this is why it is ethical to have the prisons in place. The government benefits because it delegates duties hence saves money that could have been used in the sector. The people benefit because they are not taxed to maintain the society (Hallett, 2006). The prisoners on the other hand benefit because they get programs that enable them reform hence are accepted back to the society.

In summary, privatizing the prisons is a good idea that governments should consider and implement. It is a way of improving the conditions and effectiveness of the prisons. It reduces the cost burden of the government, and reduces the burden of people having to pay taxes so that they can maintain people who have offended them. The proposal is in line with utilitarianism theory which seeks to ensure that there is the greatest benefit to majority people in the society. This is why private prisons should be given a chance in the modern day society because they have many benefits to various stakeholders in the society. The criticism cited by those against the idea is not reasonable enough hence cannot persuade the decision to continue with the government owned prisons.


Hallett, M. A. (2006). Private prisons in America: A critical race perspective. Urbana [u.a.: Illinois Univ. Press.

Price, B. E. (2006). Merchandizing Prisoners: Who really pays for prison privatization?. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Price, B. E., & Morris, J. C. (2012). Prison privatization: The many facets of a controversial industry. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the website, please click below to request its removal: