Lincoln Memorial University Law Review Archive


Brianna Weiner

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This paper discusses the societal impact of permitting private, for-profit entities to take on the government’s function of imposing and regulating punishment. Traditionally, the People choose local and government actors to punish others. The imposition of punishment by private, for-profit companies destroys the established pattern of community involvement and control. Communities have no control over which private companies are used, have little ability to oversee company functions, and have no voice in the process of holding private companies accountable. Additionally, when punishment is privatized, the offender does not feel the community’s condemnation. Instead of society benefiting from the swift hand of justice, a private company is making a profit.Part I discusses the current structure and process of privatization. This part also reviews the shameful history of private prisons, demonstrating how privatization of criminal justice is not a new concept. Instead, it is one that is rooted in slavery and racism.Part II examines the two pro-privatization arguments emphasizing the importance of better quality and lower cost. This part debunks these positions and concludes that crucial public values such as transparency, public accountability, and legitimacy all suffer when private companies control governmental punishment.Part III explores how communities and citizens can become more engaged in the process that is attempting to strip their involvement and control away. To improve the criminal justice system, society must have the incentive to be more hands-on in the process of how and where we punish society’s wrongdoers.

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