Don’t Confuse “Private” Prisons with Free-Market Prisons

by Brittany Hunter

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that it plans to stop using privately run prisons after a report found that they were often less safe for inmates than federally run facilities. While it is admirable for the federal government to finally start taking an interest in the well-being of its incarcerated population, referring to these facilities as “private” can be grossly misleading.

A truly private organization is characterized by competition in a free marketplace. A private organization does not enjoy any monopoly powers conferred by the state. Nor are the taxpayers forced to pay for the services of any private organization through their tax dollars. “Private” prisons, on the other hand, are nothing like a truly private organization.

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