More than 30 states use private prisons for some inmates but data in Arizona suggest that privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons, even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates, the New York Times reports.
Florida and Ohio are planning major shifts toward private prisons, and Arizona is expected to sign deals doubling its private-inmate population. “There's a perception that the private sector is always going to do it more efficiently and less costly,” said Russ Van Vleet, former co-director of the University of Utah Criminal Justice Center. “But there really isn't much out there that says that's correct.” Despite an Arizona law saying private prisons must create “cost savings,” the state's data indicate that inmates in private prisons can cost as much as $1,600 more per year, while many cost about the same as they do in state-run prisons. The Arizona Department of Corrections research shows private prisons often house only relatively healthy inmates.