For thirty years there has been an ideological pressure for the U.S. government to sell public infrastructure, assets and services. Prisons and schools have been privatized. Toll roads, like the Indiana Toll Road, have been sold to private consortiums. Many of these assets were created by earlier generations who regarded their obligations to citizens as important. Now there is a bigger commitment to an economic philosophy that insists government is the most expensive and least efficient provider of services. Somewhere along the line, with little economic or financial validation, privatization was accepted as the best approach for public assets.
Recent events suggest that the tide may be turning. Idaho’s governor, a privatization advocate, has announced that he is ending private contracting for the state’s correctional facility. The Idaho Statesmen-Review’s Betsy Russell reports:
[Idaho] Gov. Butch Otter just announced that he’s ordering the state Board of Correction to halt its ongoing effort to get new bids from private firms to run the privately operated state prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, south of Boise, and instead move to have the state take over operating the scandal-plagued lockup.
‘It’s disappointing, and it’s disappointing because I am a champion of privatization,’ Otter told reporters at the AP Legislative Preview. ‘It’s disappointing, but I think it also recognizes what has been happening, what has happened – it’s necessary. I think it’s the right thing to do. Is it the desirable thing to do for me? Not necessarily, because we had better hopes for outcomes in privatization.’
What happened? The AP reported that Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison operator, had run into some problems overseeing the Idaho Correctional Center: