Prison Construction Time Line
CCA (Private) Prison Schedule
|En. Plan 7 mos.|
|Design 4 months|
Site & Building Construction 18 months
CDC (State) Prison Schedule
|Env. Plan 10 months|
Design 15 months
Site Construction 17 months
|Building Construction 16 months|
If the CCA prison is built, and the State has few options for housing its
expanding population, the ethical decisions about privatizing medium-
security prisons may be moot. But perhaps more importantly, the State
will have lost an opportunity to expand its experience with contracted
prisons in a way that has the greatest potential to hold down prison
operating costs in the short term and crime and overall correctional
expenses in the long term.
The Commission was warned by CCA's greatest competitor that "spec"
private prisons developed in other states have not provided the same
price benefits as private prisons contracted for as part of a competitive
bidding process. More important in the long run, the State's only real
concern will be to buy time.
In the context of the current debate, the goal is short-term: to avoid riots
and court releases. By limiting the debate to private or state prisons, the
the State will continue to face the dilemma of the last 15 years --
spending billions of dollars to construct prisons that cost even more to
operate in order to house a growing prison population comprised largely
of inmates sentenced to longer terms for repeating the same crime.
The Immediate Opportunity
As described in Finding 5, the real benefit of contracting out
government services is not the organizational structure of the
private service provider. The real gains, in both cost savings and
improved programs, have come through competition in which capable
providers -- public, private or partnerships involving both -- compete to
In this context, the solution to the State's immediate crisis should meet
One model for achieving all four goals is a competitive process. It
provides the opportunity to harness the efficiencies derived through
competition to move toward the public goals of safe prisons and safer
The president of Wackenhut described why he believed private prison
operators can improve public programs:
Despite the best efforts of governments around the world to emulate private sector methods through a variety of means, more than marginal savings frequently seem unobtainable or unsustainable. I suspect this is due to the lack of a profit-based structure. In short, no one has yet devised a better pencil sharpener than the private sector in open competition.(130)
The potential benefits of prison services derived through competition
extend beyond secure prisons, where public safety does not begin and
end at the prison gate.
Correctional officials are right: Prison inmates are troubled people. One
private prison professional described the traits of inmates in both private
and public prisons:
Studies show that while the incidence of anti-social personality disorder is less than 4 percent in the general population, the incidence is as high as 80 percent in the prison population. These individuals come to re-entry programs manipulative, selfish, callous, impulsive, blaming others for their problems and irresponsibility and full of excuses. Nearly 90 percent abuse alcohol and drugs and 85 percent have problems holding a job and 79 percent are financially dependent on others.(131)
But the manager went on to say that rather than releasing those inmates
at the end of the term unchanged, cognitive therapy as described in
Finding 3 can reduce recidivism by 33 percent.
Those programs can be administered by public and private organizations.
Some private companies have been among the leaders in developing and
refining those programs, inspired either by a desire to change lives or to
improve the service they provide. "We have to do this," one provider
said, "to show that we are doing more than trying to make money." He
described his program:
Operating within a restorative justice model, re-entry staff teach that merely serving time does not relieve offenders of the obligation to repay their victims or to perform community service to compensate for the societal impact of their crimes. Too often lawbreakers learn to take the punishment without taking responsibility for the offense. In sharp contrast, Cornell Corrections staff teach offenders to be accountable to the victims they have harmed and the communities they have disrupted by calling on these offenders to acknowledge their guilt and to make amends.(132)
And finally, a correctional system that relies on competitive procedures
to award contracts and compensate service providers based on
outcomes, creates a system embedded with the accountability often
sought by policy makers.
California, like most states, does not track inmates when they are
released from prison. As a result, there is no data to determine what
effects -- good or bad -- that the correctional system is having on people
who serve time behind bars.
The Department of Corrections has recognized the need for this kind of
accountability. As part of its 1997 strategy plan, the CDC's top goal is:
"Improve the department's ability to protect the public from harm by
inmates and parolees." The performance measures are: "Ratio per capita
of inmate escapes. Recapture rate of escaped inmates. Percentages of
PALs (parolees at large) returned to custody/supervision. Number of law
enforcement agencies using parolee information."
The outcome measure that would have the greatest impact on both
crime and prison costs is recidivism by released felons. Through a
competitive process, the State could establish that benchmark for
service providers. With reducing crime as a goal and recidivism as a
measurable benchmark, the motivations of all agencies involved in
administering the State's correctional policy would change fundamentally
from housing inmates to correcting criminals.
And finally, even if the State were to chart an aggressive path to provide
additional housing space, it is possible that events beyond its control will
require releasing inmates before their terms are complete, or diverting
some felons to punishments other than prison. The State should prepare
for that possibility so that it can control how those mandates are
implemented. A number of local correctional authorities have had to
make similar tough decisions. Through the Board of Corrections, which
represents those local authorities, the State could develop an informed
strategy for pro-actively dealing with an unfortunate possibility.
An alternative that combines much of what we have learned in recent
years would be to award through a competitive process contracts
with prison providers who would be obligated as part of their contract
to provide services that are known to reduce recidivism. The contracts
should be outcome-based, requiring providers to show over time that
their programs are reducing recidivism.
Recommendation 6: After giving consideration to the treatment and
reintegration programs advocated in previous recommendations, the Governor
and the Legislature should ensure there are enough state and county facilities to
accommodate growth in the inmate population through the year 2003. The
facilities should be acquired through a competitive process. To maximize public
safety, contractors should be required to meet minimum operational standards
and provide to all inmates the services that have been documented to help
inmates successfully reintegrate into society.