Time to end private prison experiment
Nevada’s experiment with privately run prisons can pretty much be summarized as a failure. After nearly seven years of running the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Facility, the only prison in the state being operated by a private company, the Corrections Corporation of America is giving up the contract effective Oct. 1.
Legislators will be looking at bids this summer, and there’s nothing wrong with getting an estimate from other companies – if any is interested. But the No. 1 option ought to be returning the prison’s management to the folks who do it best – the Nevada Department of Corrections.
The cost is likely to be higher – at least higher than the $49.22 per day per inmate that Corrections Corporation of America was scheduled to receive. It decided not to continue the contract for the very reason that it was losing an estimated $1 million a year.
The state estimates it would spend about $66 a day per inmate to run the prison. Private bids are not likely to be much under that figure.
The implication from both state officials and from inmates is that Corrections Corporation of America has been cutting corners at the Southern Nevada prison. The state’s medical director for prisons, Dr. Ted D’Amico, recently criticized the company’s medical care, pointing out the state has been picking up some $300,000 of the tab anyway.
Privatization of prisons was an interesting idea that has met with mixed success nationally. The promised cost savings from efficiency haven’t always borne out, and the industry has been dogged by complaints about the quality of operations.
The Department of Corrections under Director Jackie Crawford has shown itself to be creative, flexible and tough – a professionally run operation that stacks up well with prison departments across the nation. Look at California for a system in total disarray.
Philosophically, the state has the ultimate responsibility for incarcerating the people it sentences for crimes. If the cost is reasonable in comparison to private bids, it ought to take over the Southern Nevada women’s prison.