Current government correctional systems can be characterized as a fragmented collection of facilities and services—including prisons, halfway houses, probation systems, home monitoring, programming and rehabilitation—and offenders move between these facilities and services with little continuity of knowledge of their particular history and rehabilitation progress, leading to little accountability and poor results for the successful return of these individuals to society. Further, the facilities and services that comprise current systems are usually the legacy of policy decisions made years—even decades—ago and may not comport with the facility and service mix needed to improve performance of the system today and into the future. Given the disjointed nature of the current system, it should come as no surprise that recidivism is a persistent challenge, with offenders in most states more likely to return to prison than remain in free society upon release.
Corrections needs a new paradigm. This policy brief by Reason Foundation and Florida TaxWatch outlines a concept designed to target recidivism and drive cost reduction via a bold, new approach: a continuum of care through public-private partnerships (PPPs). PPPs are simply government contracts with private sector prison operators or service vendors to provide a range of correctional services—from financing, building and operating prisons to delivering a range of inmate services (e.g., health care, food, rehabilitation services) and administrative/operational support functions (e.g., facility maintenance, transportation and information technology).
Expanding the use of PPPs to create a continuum of care in corrections—one that follows offenders from intake, through prisons and into post-release services—would create a more integrated and coordinated system of programming and management to provide as ideal a programming continuum as possible to optimize outcomes while lowering costs.
Given its current usage and experience with implementing correctional PPPs, Florida provides a useful example of the cost savings benefits a state might realize through the use of correctional continuum of care PPPs. As this policy brief from Reason Foundation and Florida TaxWatch shows, shifting to a continuum of care PPP model in two regions of the state could reduce the annual costs of correctional facility operation and community corrections by $71 million to $102 million per year. Over a 10-year time frame, this could add up to approximately $1 billion in potential savings.
PPPs provide an effective, cost-saving alternative for governments seeking to improve outcomes while taking pressure off their corrections budgets. Extending the PPP model to create a continuum of care would better orient the system toward high performance and ensure that offenders are always in the right place at the right time for the right programs to maximize the likelihood of a successful return to society.