Response to Discussion post

The goal here is to expand and enhance the discussion with additional ideas and references. Be certain to cite some Biblical principle.
Ethical Concerns With Correctional Privatization
I chose to review a case study written in 2020 titled “Ethical Concerns About Private (and Public) Corrections: Extending the Focus Beyond Profit-Making and the Delegation of Punishment.” The privatization of corrections in the United States is a hotly debated topic in public administration circles, as financially incentivizing punishment raises significant ethical concerns. Corrections are supposed to be rehabilitative entities, a form of punishment that also focuses on the prisoner’s successful reintegration back into society post incarceration. As the author Montes (2020) notes, tying punishment to profits is unethical because privatizing corrections may incentivize the implementation of lower quality services that do not prioritize public safety (p. 610). The use of private prisons continues to proliferate nationally, as “27 states and the federal government currently incarcerate a portion of their correctional populations in privately owned and operated prisons” (Frost et al, 2019, p. 457).
Running corrections like a business is unethical because businesses focus on profits, and in the business world, profits are achieved through repeat customers. It would actually be counter intuitive for a private (or for-profit) corrections facility to invest heavily in programs to reduce recidivism rates. Not when the amount of funding that a privatized corrections facility receives is based upon the number of inmates that they house. Montes (2020) believes that the presence of financial incentives may motivate private providers to invest in approaches that produce higher recidivism rates and that perpetuate severe punishment (p. 610).
Beyond simple administrative ethics, one must also consider consequentialist and deontological ethics with regards to correctional privatization. Einolf (2016) tells us that consequentialist ethics assume that one can define the good or evil of an act by looking at its consequences (p. 355). I feel that the negative consequences associated with privatized corrections far outweigh the positives, especially from an ethical standpoint. The only positive that comes from privatized corrections is that they save taxpayer dollars as private entities can build and run prisons much cheaper than the government. As far as negative consequences, the prioritization of correctional goals has been completely changed. What was previously a goal of rehabilitation and recidivism reduction has been replaced by cost efficiency and profit maximization.
“Deontological ethics, on the other hand, argues that the ethics of an act lie in the actor’s intent, not the acts consequences” (Einolf, 2016, p. 355). It is clear that the intent of the government in choosing to privatize corrections is to save money even if it is at the expense of those incarcerated. The tying of punishment to profits in any manner is highly unethical based on commonly accepted public sector ethical standards.
Proponents of correctional privatization will argue that it is a perfect example of utilitarianism, in that it is achieving the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The percentage of the country’s population that pays taxes is far greater than the percentage that is incarcerated so this is justified. However, as Fischer (2010) points out, while utilitarianism emphasizes efficiency, productivity, and high profits, it can overlook the concerns and rights of individual members (p. 15). In this instance those individual members are the incarcerated, who are witnessing their futures being put in jeopardy through the reduction of opportunities to improve themselves.
In the ancient Greek play Antigone, Sophocles’ highlighted “society’s need for reliable order and a process for creating and sustaining such order” (Marini, 1992, p. 425). An ethical dilemma arises however when maintaining such order is done so in a manner that violates societies moral and ethical standards. O’Reilly (2011) points out that ethical values are simply a reflection of the preferences of an individual or a group (p. 372). And I personally feel that the government is acting unethically in privatizing corrections as it goes beyond restorative justice to a place where private entities are turning a profit off of human punishment. If it were up to me I would end the use of private prisons immediately as it is the correct thing to do both ethically and morally. The last thing we need is for private prisons to create competition in the corrections industry. It is the prisoners that suffer in that scenario as they are the customers and they cannot “take their business elsewhere.”
And lastly, I feel that the privatization of corrections is unethical with regards to the Lord and Biblical standards. We are all God’s children, and he teaches us to forgive those who sin just as he will forgive us. Those in corrections have an obligation to make decisions in the best interest of the incarcerated, not to further punish them due to their limited rights. Leviticus 19:18 reads “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Holy Bible, NIV, 2011).
ReferencesEinolf, C. (2016). The Ethics and Politics of Torture. Public Administration Review, 76(2), 354-357.
Fischer, K. (2010). A Biblical-Covenantal Perspective on Organizational Behavior