Temple University is investigating an ethics complaint that two of its professors did not properly disclose funding from the private prison industry for their research on the cost of incarceration, reports Philly.com. Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone, economists on Temple’s faculty since the mid-1970s, argued that they had been doing similar research for decades and always disclosed their funding when their work was completed. They said sometimes their research favors the funder and sometimes it does not. In this case, it did. The professors concluded that private prisons save money while performing as well as or better than government-operated prisons and generate much-needed competition. In the private model, Hakim and Blackstone found long-term savings in taxpayer costs of 12 percent to 58 percent. They touted the private model in op-eds they published in newspapers around the U.S., most with no mention of their funding source.
Alex Friedmann, managing editor of the monthly Prison Legal News and associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, a criminal-justice advocacy group, objects. “Their research was funded by the very industry they were studying,” said Friedmann, an ex-convict turned activist against prison privatization who filed the complaint with Temple. “It’s kind of like the tobacco industry funding the Tobacco Institute, which says smoking is just fine for you.” Rosemary Goudreau, editorial page editor of the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said she no longer had the professors’ original version, but said if they had included the funding source, the paper would have noted it “to help people understand where they were coming from.” Marybeth Gasman, a University of Pennsylvania education professor, said it was unethical for Hakim and Blackstone not to be up-front about funding in prison-related research, given “that their research is about the very organizations that are funding them and they are writing opinion pieces where they are advocating certain positions.”