Private Sector Involvement in Juvenile Justice

Article excerpt

The American Correctional Association (ACA), under a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), conducted a survey in 1999 regarding private sector involvement in juvenile justice systems. Results of this survey are presented below and compared with a similar study conducted in 1991 by Robert B. Levinson and William J. Taylor.

Survey Findings

Fifty-seven replies were received from 41 different jurisdictions, including Puerto Rico and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Of the total number of jurisdictions, 46 (81 percent) indicated they had at least one currently active private sector (PS) contract; the remainder of this report focuses on the responses received from those jurisdictions. This group has been contracting with the private sector for an average of 14.2 years. California reported the longest experience with private service contracting, at more than 40 years. The number of PS contracts per jurisdiction (see Table 1) ranged from 1 to 373, averaging 58.1. Oregon reported having the most.

The highest percentage of respondents (85 percent) had contracts with private, nonprofit agencies, followed by solely owned, for-profit (76 percent); public, nonprofit (49 percent); and public, for-profit (20 percent). Nine jurisdictions indicated they had PS contracts with other types of agencies/entities -- the largest proportion of these were with professional individuals.

Table 2 shows the percentage of their budgets' jurisdictions spent on these activities by the types of services for which they contracted. Because of the widely differing sizes of the responding jurisdictions, the survey results are reported in percentages. It also should be noted that some jurisdictions did not break down their expenditures into the different subcategories -- those are included in "Operations and Programs."

Overall, the largest proportion of jurisdictions that responded to this item (66 percent), expended an average of 24.4 percent of their contract funds on operations and programs. This was followed by 56 percent of the respondents who spent an average of 20.9 percent of their contract funds for community-based programs. The area on which the fewest respondents spent contract funds was facility maintenance, while the smallest proportion of funds was spent on PS contracts for food at 1.2 percent.

Forty-one percent of these jurisdictions spent an average of 10.3 percent of their PS funds for specialized interventions. For the 41 jurisdictions that responded to this survey item, the average proportion of budget funds expended on private sector contracts was 10.7 percent.

Attitudes Toward Contracting

The main reason the survey respondents gave for PS contracting was that the private sector vendors could provide services and expertise that the jurisdictions lacked -- this was mentioned in 80 percent of the replies. The second most popular reason, listed by 54 percent of respondents, was that the private sector could offer services that were cheaper and more efficient. Flexibility/diversity of services was endorsed by 18 (44 percent) of those who replied. All together, there were 29 different responses to this item.

Table 3 displays the most frequently mentioned positive outcomes and shortcomings of contracting, from a total of 28 and 21 replies, respectively.

According to the respondents, these shortcomings were primarily due to the vendors. Most often the difficulties were experienced with PS contracts with solely owned, for profit agencies and with public, for profits. The fewest difficulties were experienced with public, nonprofits followed by the private, nonprofits. In short, entities that awarded private sector contracts had the most difficulty with for-profit agencies.

Eighty-five percent of respondents listed service areas where new PS contracts were anticipated. Only one jurisdiction -- Missouri -- stated that it anticipated fewer such contracts in the future. …