Private Prisons

Cost Savings and BOP's Statutory Authority Need to Be Resolved Gao ID: GGD-91-21 February 7, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the use of privately operated prisons and jails by federal, state, and local governments.

GAO found that: (1) some state and local governments used privately managed and operated prisons and jails to supplement their public facilities; (2) as of November 24, 1990, 24 government agencies contracted or planned to contract for prison or jail space for their adult general-inmate populations; (3) state correctional officials reported that privately managed and operated correctional facilities reduced overcrowding and provided prison space at a lower cost; (4) some state and local governments were reluctant to or decided not to use private prisons or jails because they believed that the benefits of privatization had not yet been proven; (5) the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) planned to contract to construct, staff, and manage a minimum-security facility for short-term alien prisoners; (6) BOP believes that more testing and experience are needed before operational questions about privatization benefits can be answered; (7) public policy questions concerning the extent to which the government should privately contract for the management and operation of prisons were difficult to resolve; (8) the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Marshals Service reported that they used private-sector facilities within their jurisdictions primarily to quickly ease overcrowding; (9) BOP lacked sufficient authority to contract to house adult general-inmate populations; and (10) more research and testing were needed on the benefits, limitations, and most effective applications of privatization.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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