In a May 23 Maine Compass, Temple University professors Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone discussed their recent research that found cost savings and equal or better performance by for-profit prison companies. Based upon their research findings they suggested the state consider prison privatization.

Maine does not have private prisons, for good reason — they have a for-profit incentive to keep as many people as possible locked up for as long as possible. While we’ll always need to incarcerate people who commit crimes, there is no reason to have for-profit prisons. Comparatively, we don’t have a for-profit police force.

Unfortunately, Hakim and Blackstone neglected to mention that their research lauding the benefits of prison privatization was funded by “members of the private prison industry,” according to a press release issued by Temple University. Likewise, their study itself, which has not been published or peer-reviewed, fails to reveal that it was funded by private prison firms.

Hakim and Blackstone further neglected to mention that they may have a predisposition to favor the private sector, as they both have previously advocated for the privatization of government services — including privatized police functions.

The public has a right to know when academic research is funded by for-profit companies that directly benefit from the results of that research. Both CCA and GEO Group, the nation’s leading private prison companies, are promoting the Temple study.

It’s remarkable how research that is funded by private prison firms frequently finds cost savings or other benefits through prison privatization, while studies that do not receive industry funding typically report no such benefits.

Alex Friedmann

Nashville, Tenn.

The writer is president of the Private Corrections Institute, which opposes prison privatization, and is a former prisoner who served time at a private prison in the 1990s.

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