Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Australia, New Zealand and UK Have Higher Proportion of Prisoners in Private Prisons

History will remember the United States as the first country in the world to privatize its prisons and jails; the modern era of prison privatization began when Corrections Corporation of America (now known as CoreCivic) was founded in the U.S. in 1983. Many other countries looked toward the United States when privatizing their own prison systems. As of January 13, 2017, data indicates that the UK, Australia and New Zealand have a higher proportion of prisoners held in for-profit facilities than the comparable proportion of U.S. prisoners.

Australia, England and Wales house one of every five prisoners in a private correctional facility, whereas in the U.S. the ratio is around 1 in 12 (or 8.3% of the state and federal prison population). The UK opened its first private prison in 1992 and currently has 14 privatized facilities. Numerous problems have been cited at such prisons, and in February 2017 a BBC documentary found that the Sodexo-operated HMP Northumberland, “one of Britain’s biggest jails, has descended into chaos, with failing alarms, prisoners calling the shots and a troubling drug problem sweeping its corridors,” according to The Telegraph.

In Australia, nine for-profit prisons have cropped up since 1995. All of Australia’s immigration detention centers are privately operated, too. New Zealand dropped private prison operator Serco as the private contractor for the Mount Eden Corrections Facility in 2016 after an investigation into “fight clubs” at the prison. The South Auckland Corrections Facility remains under private management.

In a report titled “Global Prison Trends 2015,” the advocacy group Penal Reform International recommended that governments first review “whether or not imprisonment is playing an appropriate role in tackling crime. Countries with very high rates of imprisonment should do so as a matter of urgency.” In another recommendation, governments were urged to review the need to build new facilities, as the “construction of new prisons without penal reform may simply lead to an increase in the prison population.”

PLN is a longstanding opponent of the private prison industry. 


As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login