A novel explanation for state prison privatization: that they do so to limit legal and political accountability for inmate lawsuits.
One of the most controversial developments in the American criminal justice in the last few decades has been the development of the modern private prison industry. While there are many explanations proffered for the adoption of this policy―including partisanship, economic stress, unionization, and lobbying efforts by private prison firms―none fully explain why states privatize their prisons. In Captive Market, Anna Gunderson proposes a novel explanation for why states adopt this policy. She shows that states privatize prisons to limit legal and political accountability for inmate lawsuits, an unintended consequence of the legal rights revolution for prisoners. Evidence from an original dataset and interviews with private prison companies, government officials, and advocacy groups suggest that growing prisoner lawsuits are a significant driver of prison privatization in the United States. With over 160,000 inmates currently held in private facilities across the country, it is vital to understand the causes of this rise and the nuances of private prison policy, one with significant consequences for the American criminal legal system. An eye-opening account of an industry that many are aware of but few know much about, this book will reshape our understanding of the fundamental nature of the American carceral state.