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Copyright 1986 The Columbia Law Review.

Columbia Law Review

NOTE: INMATES' RIGHTS AND THE PRIVATIZATION OF PRISONS.

NOVEMBER, 1986

Columbia Law Review

86 Colum. L. Rev. 1475

Author

Douglas W. Dunham

Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, headlines such as "The Corporate Warden," 1 "Incarcerated Unlimited," 2 and "Breaking Into Jail" 3 have heralded the birth of a new field of venture capitalism: private, for-profit prisons. Private firms argue that they can operate detention facilities more economically and efficiently than the public sector. 4 Already, such highly respected organizations as the American Correctional Association 5 and the National Governors' Association 6 have endorsed the concept of private prisons. Yet privatization raises troubling constitutional concerns as to the extent that proprietary firms can be entrusted to exercise decisionmaking powers that affect the length, terms, and conditions of prisoners' confinement. The American Bar Association has called for a moratorium on privatization until "the complex constitutional [issues surrounding private prisons] . . . are developed and resolved." 7

This Note argues that comprehensive safeguards are necessary to ensure the protection of inmates' constitutional rights in private prisons. Part I explores the emergence of the private prison industry and its operating structure. Part II establishes that private prisons are subject to constitutional restrictions and develops a framework for determining what limits should be placed on private wardens' powers. Part III applies that framework and concludes that the government must retain effective control over the promulgation of private prison rules and disciplinary decisions that could affect the length of inmates' confinement. It also contends that thorough safeguards are necessary for parole and transfer decisions, as well as private prison living ...
 
 
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