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Private Versus Public Sector Operation: A Comparison of the Environmental Quality in Juvenile Correctional Facilities, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
186 pages
This study assessed the implications of privatization in juvenile corrections through an analysis of the environmental quality of conditions of confinement in both public and private juvenile correctional facilities.
For this study, "privatization" referred to the "process wherein the State continues to fund the costs of incarceration of delinquents but the private sector provides the custodial and programmatic managerial services." The research analyzed data collected from 48 juvenile correctional facilities throughout the United States (16 privately operated facilities and 32 publicly operated facilities). Data pertained to the quality of conditions of confinement as perceived by juvenile delinquents (n=4,590), correctional staff (n=1,362), and facility administrators (n=48). This report first provides a historical synopsis of the role of the private sector within the adult correctional system. This synopsis is contrasted with the historical role of the private sector in the juvenile correctional system. The report then profiles the debates and issues surrounding correctional-facility privatization as argued by supporters and opponents. The final section of the literature review discusses the measurement structure the researchers used to examine the quality of the juvenile correction environment. The five research questions explored in the current research focused on differences in the demographic composition and risk levels of the juvenile populations in private and public facilities, differences in staff characteristics, resident and staff perceptions of conditions of confinement, the adjustment of residents in the two types of facilities, and the work experiences of the correctional staff. The study found no significant differences in the demographics and risk factors of the juveniles in the two types of facilities. Private facilities employed staff that were significantly younger, had less prior experience in correctional facilities, and had been employed for a shorter time. Compared to public facilities, private facilities were significantly smaller, newer, and had a more intensive admission process for residents. There were no statistically significant differences in the quality of the perceived conditions of confinement between the two types of facilities. Juveniles in private facilities experienced a statistically significant increase in their level of anxiety and a decrease in the level of social bonds, but the differences were still small. The operating sector did not significantly impact any of the four measures of staff work experiences. 19 tables, 2 figures, and 91 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000