Private prisons in Texas, 1987--2000: The legal, economic, and political influences on policy implementation
Description The purpose of this study is to determine why private prisons flourished in Texas and why the outcome varied so much from the policy makers' intent. In 1987, the 70th Texas Legislature approved S.B. 251, which allowed the Texas Department of Corrections to contract with vendors for the financing, construction, operation, maintenance and management of a small number of adult secure correctional facilities. However, today, Texas is home to more private prisons than any other state. Based on implementation theory, which seeks to determine why public policy often does not result in the intended outcome, this case study focuses on the many players and their interactions within the legal, economic, and political context. Like most cases of unintended outcome, this situation is complex. Nevertheless, the analysis reveals lessons which can benefit future policy design so that outcome will more nearly resemble intent. Over the course of the last fifteen years, the New Public Management paradigm has come to dominate public administration thought in the United States on a national, state, and municipal level. This paradigm, which emphasizes market-based rather than constitution-based principles and values, has important consequences for the delivery of public services, particularly those that affect the everyday lives of citizens. The privatization of Texas prisons, which began in 1987, provides one example of this trend. Initially proposed as a modest program in limited legislation, private prisons in Texas have grown far beyond their intended scale to become the world's largest private corrections system. This study analyzes the formulation, adoption, and design of policies that led to the vast expansion of the scope of private prisons in Texas. The research reveals that serious legal problems enabled economics and politics to become driving forces in the privatization of corrections in the state of Texas. Further, there were mixed motives on the parts of the many key players involved in the implementation process. These mixed motives, coupled with the overwhelming legal, economic, and political pressures led to an outcome quite different from the policy makers intentions. The conclusions of this analysis describe how the implications of these realizations impact policy outcome.
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