How Did We Get the Benefit of Two Studies?

Sidebar to the article Cost, Performance Studies Look at Prison Privatization by Gerry Gaes, Ph.D.

Due to the sheer expense of conducting evaluation studies, it is a rare occurrence to have competing research analyses like those discussed in this article. To understand how this happened, some historical perspective is in order.

In 1996, the U.S. House of Representatives directed the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to perform a 5-year prison privatization demonstration project of the low- and minimum-security prisons in Taft, California. BOP awarded a 10-year contract to the Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation), which operated the facilities from 1997 to 2007. The contract was then recompeted, and a new contract to run the Taft prisons was awarded to Management and Training Corporation.

Although the U.S. Congress did not request a formal evaluation of the Taft facilities, BOP leadership decided that an evaluation of cost and quality would help them make better decisions regarding privatization. BOP funded the National Institute of Justice to secure proposals for an evaluation of Taft and similar BOP facilities. Abt Associates won that competition and conducted the study. BOP's Office of Research conducted its own independent study in order to understand how to conduct this new type of research.

Date Created: March 17, 2008