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The fifth annual Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Prize has been awarded to Anna Gunderson, Ph.D. student in political science at Emory University (www.annagunderson.com), for her paper “Why do States Privatize Their Prisons? The Unintended Consequences of Inmate Litigation”.
The Ostrom Prize is awarded each year to the single best combined paper and presentation by a graduate student at the annual meetings of the Public Choice Society. The Prize carries a commemorative plaque and $1,000 honorarium sponsored by The Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. 2019 is the fifth year for the Ostrom Prize.
Gunderson’s paper was selected as one of three finalists among a field of approximately 20 entries, and then presented on a special session at the 56thAnnual Meetings of the Public Choice Society, March 14-16 in Louisville, Kentucky. Her entry was selected as the winner by a panel of six judges.
“This year’s field of entries was excellent,” President Roger Congleton said, “and the selection committee had a difficult decision to make.”
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Why Do States Privatize their Prisons? The Unintended Consequences of Inmate Litigation
The United States has witnessed privatization of a variety of government functions over the last three decades. Media and politicians often attribute the decision to privatize to ideological commitments to small government and fiscal pressure. These claims are particularly notable in the context of prison privatization, where states and the federal government have employed private companies to operate and manage private correctional facilities. I argue state prison privatization is not a function of simple ideological or economic considerations. Rather, prison privatization has been an unintended consequence of the administrative and legal costs associated with litigation brought by prisoners. I assemble an original database of prison privatization in the US and demonstrate that the privatization of prisons is best predicted by the legal pressure on state corrections systems, rather than the ideological orientation of a state government.