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Report: Private Community-Corrections Centers Failing to Rehabilitate

A new study finds those released from private, residential community-corrections centers are far more likely to be reincarcerated. (ErikaWittlieb/Pixbay)
A new study finds those released from private, residential community-corrections centers are far more likely to be reincarcerated. (ErikaWittlieb/Pixbay)
December 12, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Privately run residential community-corrections centers in Pennsylvania don't live up to their claims of cost savings and effectiveness, according to new research.

Community-corrections centers serve as halfway houses, where some people serve out the end of their prison sentences. There are 14 publicly run centers in Pennsylvania, and 38 that are privately run.

The study, in the December edition of The Prison Journal, said the cost per day to house a person in public or private facilities is virtually identical. However, report author Terrence Alladin, assistant professor of criminal justice at Lebanon Valley College, said those held in the private centers are far more likely to reoffend after release than those in the publicly run facilities.

"What our study found," he said, "is that inmates or offenders who come out of the private correction centers are four times as likely to reoffend than those who come out of the public systems."

Alladin said factors such as better training of staff, the availability of rehabilitative programs and higher levels of care at publicly run centers contribute to better outcomes. Another factor, he said, is the profit motive that drives privately run corrections centers, which he said are paid based on the number of people incarcerated there.

"The more offenders that they have in their system, the more profits they make," he said, "and it's not in their best interest for inmates to stay too long in their system. The faster they're out, the better it is because there are more inmates coming in."

He added that high recidivism rates help keep the private centers full and profitable.

Alladin suggested that one way to reform the private system would be to move away from paying corporations based on the numbers of beds they fill and establishing what he called "performance measures."

"You'll be paid based on your results," he said. "The less people that return to prison, the less people that are incarcerated; that's how you'll be paid - based on performance."

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has promoted a plan to grant additional funding to private, residential community corrections centers that reduce recidivism while penalizing those that do not.

The study is online at journals.sagepub.com.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA