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PA Judges Got Cash to Lock Up Teens, Revealed a Broken Justice System

The structure of private detention and prison contracting creates incentives and behaviors that poison our system of criminal justice.

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The use of private contractors and 'market mechanisms' like pay-for-performance contracts allows the private sector's profit imperative to infect the public system of criminal justice. There couldn't be a clearer case where public purpose is driven off the rails by private actors. After all, any new program that looks to other, more creative approaches to reducing crime and recidivism would produce cost savings that would hurt these companies' bottom lines. Tragically, that means there's an industry threatened by better, more just policies and it's well-positioned to prevent them from being enacted.

Donald Cohen is the co-founder and president of the Center on Policy Initiatives.

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