A private prison is a correctional facility where offenders are physically confined by a third-party private operator, who is contracted by a government entity. Today, private prisons confine nearly 9% of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States. This entry reviews the history and rise of private prisons and then discusses the pros and cons as well as the privacy and security implications associated with private prisons.


Although the original concept of prison privatization in the United States dates back to more than 150 years with the establishment of San Quentin in 1852, very few privately operated correctional facilities existed until the 1980s. The creation of the modern-day private prison industry coincided with the establishment of the nation’s “war on drugs” and the implementation ...

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