To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice

To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice

To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice

To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice


In contrast to government's predominant role in criminal justice today, for many centuries crime control was almost entirely private and community-based. Government police forces, prosecutors, courts, and prisons are all recent historical developments-results of a political and bureaucratic social experiment which, Bruce Benson argues, neither protects the innocent nor dispenses justice.

In this comprehensive and timely book, Benson analyzes the accelerating trend toward privatization in the criminal justice system. In so doing, To Serve and Protect challenges and transcends both liberal and conservative policies that have supported government's pervasive role. With lucidity and rigor, he examines the gamut of private-sector input to criminal justice-from private-sector outsourcing of prisons and corrections, security, arbitration to full "private justice" such as business and community-imposed sanctions and citizen crime prevention. Searching for the most cost-effective methods of reducing crime and protecting civil liberties, Benson weighs the benefits and liabilities of various levels of privatization, offering correctives for the current gridlock that will make criminal justice truly accountable to the citizenry and will simultaneously result in reductions in the unchecked power of government.


Like most of my colleagues in criminology, and like many of my lay friends, I have been fearful about and fascinated with the prospect of privatization of prisons, or of any other aspects of the criminal justice system. Part of that hesitant concern for privatizing what has long but not always been under public domain was rooted in the scattered history of vigilantism, nineteenth-century convict labor, Georgia chain gangs, Wild West frontier gun-toting justice, corruption among cops, and bribery of legislators and judges.

Although aware of what I have felt to be an increasing encroachment by government on my personal life, I have not equated legalized usurpation of property, liberty, and responsibility with illegal acts of burglary, theft, and other criminal concepts. From a political philosophical perspective, I consider myself a blend of traditional liberal and libertarian ideas. Democratic freedom of my individual rights along with governmental security and protection through the Lockean social contract have been thoughts that guided my ship through the waters of life while allowing me to be a reasonable “captain of my fate.”

Through To Serve and Protect, the author leads the reader to realize the extent to which the government has taken over many functions and private property rights from the individual. in a succinct, compact philosophical way, and with the logic of a trained scientist, the author makes the reader aware of the private security industry with its thousands of skilled crime-prevention experts, sophisticated microcomputers, armored trucks, alarm systems and perimeter safeguards, neighborhood watch groups, private community policing, and many other ways of coping with crime that far exceed the remedies provided by the public governmental sector.

The thrust of the theme of the chapters that follow is not a screaming attack on public law enforcement nor on the traditional prosecutorial, judicial, and correctional systems. Rather, the theme running through this volume is the strength of the complementarity that private security, victim input to pros-

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