A morally repugnant process whereby for the most part already rich people will become richer by incarcerating citizens on behalf of the coercive State.
But this gives rise to the question of who exactly is the “customer” in a privatised prison? Presumably the government through the courts as they are the providers of funds – the people who pay. In which case the prisoners become simply commodities to be exchanged between the private prison company and the court for the generation of profit – which is one reason why the idea is so morally repugnant.
Market logic suggests that it is in the interests of private prison companies to have more and more prisoners – how is such a business to ‘grow’ otherwise?
Large corporate businesses will therefore be influencing legislators and public debate to encourage the incarceration of more and more citizens – regardless of the human and social cost of such a policy.
To counter-act this claim you could try to create/manipulate the ‘market’ so that the real ‘business’ of a private prison company in the UK is rehabilitation not incarceration, i.e. the profit arises not from incarcerating the prisoners but for rehabilitating the criminals. But this mechanism does not resolve the problem of a private company wishing for a larger and larger prison population because, simply put, the more prisoners there are, the more there are to rehabilitate.
It is also true to say that it is easier to ‘rehabilitate’ a traffic offender or community tax dodger than it is a mass murderer. So indeed there will be a commercial imperative for private prison companies to urge an increase in the incarceration of ‘soft’ criminals.
So, far from reducing the costs to the state through the efficiency of efficient competition, market logic actually gives rise to commercial imperatives and reward systems that argue for an ever expanding prison population – and thus an ever expanding prison budget.
The idea of a private prison is morally repugnant but what is worse is that even if we use the market logic of those proposing it it will fail to achieve the supposed objective of reducing the costs of the prison service.
Which raises the question of what other motives there could be for introducing such a policy? Which in turn maybe brings us back to that thing of already rich people getting richer – at the expense of poor people.