Privatization Analysis

Privatization of Juvenile Justice System


Institution of Affiliation

Privatization of Juvenile Justice System

In recent years, privatization has been a viable strategic option in the various government agencies. This is especially evident in the juvenile justice system. The shrinking budget and the increasing number of individuals in the juvenile correctional facilities have prompted the juvenile justice professionals to seek new ways of doing more with less. Privatization has emerged as this new way with gaining acceptance in several states in the United States in the last few decades. Consequently, at least 40 percent of the United States delinquents are in private facilities (Butts and Pfaff, 2019). This approach has sparked controversial arguments regarding the use of the juveniles for profit. However, the private prison industry has grown on the proposition that it reduce the load on taxpayers delivering better services at lower costs than federal and state facilities. Regardless of their cost effective outcomes for the juvenile corrections, there have been immense negativity directed towards them has prompted call for their closure.

In the juvenile context, privatization looks very different from the adult criminal justice prisons. Currently, there are 1300 juvenile facilities with 53 percent of them being privately-owned. With only 40 percent of the juvenile offenders being placed in private juvenile corrections, it is evident that privatization has not yet made sufficient inroads of the juvenile justice system as seen in adult criminal justice system. This shows a slow growth as the privatization of correction facilities was documented shortly after the first British colonists arrived in Virginia in 1607. Private merchants would transport youth convicts and sell them as indentured servants. The use of the privately owned juvenile corrections became popular in the 18th century when modern prisons were being established (Kirkham, 2013). This was borrowed from the Britons who had a long history of privatizing juvenile prisons.

U.S. States that have Private Juvenile Services

There are several States in the U.S. with private juvenile facilities including California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, and Washington, among others. California relies heavily on residential facilities for rehabilitation with 35 percent of their juvenile offenders being placed in state private facilities (Krisberg, 2014). Several of the juvenile facilities in Texas are privately operated with the centers being required to registered under the Texas Family Code in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. However, most of the facilities in this state are small thereby accommodating limited number of juveniles. Arizona boasts of the most effective rehabilitation facilities for youth offenders and drug addicts. Solitary confinement of the juveniles is not allowed in the facilities and only state officials can verify that a child has changed before release from the secure care. In Florida, all residential correction programs are handled by providers. At least 95 percent of these facilities are run by private investors. Some of these facilities include Dade Juvenile Residential Facility, Pasco Juvenile Detention Center, and St Lucie Regional Juvenile Center, among others. Washington has limited private facilities as it has been dominated by federal and state-owned facilities (Lindsey, Mears, and Cochran, 2016). The only major private correction centre in the state is Martin Hall Juvenile Facility.

Effect of privatization of the Juvenile services

Privatizing juvenile services is based on the premise that it provides better services for lower cost. This has made some of the states such as Florida to wholly privatize their residential correction facilities. In addition, it has served to reduce overcrowding in the federal and state-run juvenile facilities. However, it has been marred with several negative outcomes with corruption setting in as judges sentence juvenile offenders to private prisons. There has been a consensus that private juvenile facilities profit by incarcerating people and have secured licensure and contracts from state officials because of their contributions to politicians in their campaigns. Since the facilities are motivated by the profits, they are determined to keep the cost of operation in check. Consequently, the juveniles become victims of poor rehabilitation services. There is abusive treatment such as beatings, unnecessary use of pepper spray, insect-infested food, and regular sexual assaults, among others. Their focus on profits has seen them fail in effectively providing rehabilitative services; the workers in the facilities are either poorly trained or are receiving low pay. Some of the facilities such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut have been reported to be understaffed, have substandard health services, and the work programs for the juveniles is insufficient (National Juvenile Justice Network, 2015). Therefore, there need to be reforms to eradicate these evils and use the positives that prompted the privatization of the juvenile facilities.

Future Effect of Privatization of Juvenile Services on Juvenile Crime

The recent failure by some of the juvenile facilities has painted the privatization in bad light leaving a need for reforms if there is to be hope. Humanitarian bodies call for dissolution of the private facilities as they think the facilities are not realizing the fundamental objectives of the juvenile justice system. If the private corrections continue to provide ineffective rehabilitative services, then the future is bleak for juvenile claims. There have been reports of juveniles being released from the facilities in worse behavioral states than they were before being admitted there. Regardless, privatization seems inevitable as the governments shift their levels and mode of service provision to its citizens (Guarino-Ghezzi, 2017). To reduce the incidence rate of juvenile crime, the private entities ought to transform from being profit-driven to being goal-driven i.e. seeking to help society rehabilitate its children.


Butts, J. A., & Pfaff, J. (2019). It’s about quality: Private confinement facilities in juvenile justice. Criminology & Public Policy, 18(2), 361-378.

Guarino-Ghezzi, S. (2017). Balancing juvenile justice. Routledge.

Kirkham, C. (2013). Private prison empire rises despite startling record of juvenile abuse. Huff Post.

Krisberg, B. (2014). Reforming the Division of Juvenile Justice: Lessons Learned. McGeorge L. Rev., 46, 775.

Lindsey, A. M., Mears, D. P., & Cochran, J. C. (2016). The privatization debate: A conceptual framework for improving (public and private) corrections. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 32(4), 308-327.

National Juvenile Justice Network. (2015, September). Confining Youth for Profit. Retrieved from–policy-platform