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Background of Prison Overcrowding in Hong Kong (Essay Sample)




Prison Overcrowding
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Prison Overcrowding
Escalation of prison populations and, consequently, overcrowding in prisons is a serious issue facing governments worldwide. Despite being one of the most developed cities globally, Hong Kong is no exception to the growing problem of overcrowding in prisons (Hui et al., 2017). Overcrowding is heavily burdening penal institutions in Hong Kong (Hui et al., 2017). The majority of incarceration facilities in the nation have exceeded the required number of people by significant margins. Overcrowding is caused by the justice system sentencing more people to prison and longer terms beyond what the prisons can hold (Hui et al., 2017). Overcrowding has adverse effects on prison discipline, prisons' condition, and the rehabilitation of incarcerated people; thus, the government has had to look for effective measures to tackle the problem (Hui et al., 2017). The government is considering privatizing prisons, which has given rise to debates about whether this will be effective.[Hui, Cora YT, and T. Wing Lo. "H ong K ong, Corrections in." The Encyclopedia of Corrections (2017): 1-9.] [Ibid] [Ibid] [Ibid]
Background of Prison Overcrowding in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has had to deal with overcrowding in its prisons for many decades. The prison population in Hong Kong has risen significantly in the past years, rising from about 8361 prisoners in 1987 to more than 12000 (Lo, 2017). The prisons have extended the certified population that they are required to have by more than 18 percent (Lo, 2017). Due to overcrowding, many cells, which are supposed to hold only one prisoner at a time, now house two or even three inmates. The prison dormitories are also congested, with beds closely bordering each other, in many correctional facilities (Smith, 2015). Moreover, projections show that the figures will continue growing in the coming years, causing serious shortfalls in the correctional facilities (Smith, 2015). To curb the problem, the government is considering various methods, among them prison privatization.[Lo, T. Wing. "Prison and correctional services." Understanding criminal justice in Hong Kong (2017): 337-358.] [Ibid] [Smith, Roger. Prison conditions: Overcrowding, disease, violence, and abuse. Simon and Schuster, 2015.] [Ibid]
Privatization of Prisons
The privatization of prisons has been increasing across the world, with the growing number of incarcerated persons. It is estimated that there are about 184 privatized correctional facilities in the world, which hold about 132346 prisoners (Harding et al., 2019). However, despite the high number of privatized prisons across the world, the problem of overcrowding in prisons continues to grow, raising a debate on the efficiency and future of privatization.[Harding, Richard W., John Rynne, and Lisa Thomsen. "History of privatized corrections." Criminology & Public Policy 18, no. 2 (2019): 241-267.]
Debate on the overcrowding of prisons has had many people blame the public system for the problem, thus advocating for the privatization of the correctional facilities. Many people believe that the government is inadequately equipped to address the growing problem of overcrowding fully (Montel et al., 2019). Privatization involves shifting public responsibilities, capital assets, and functions from the public sector, either in whole or partly, to the private sector. In correctional facilities, the most common type of privatization involves contracting out special prison services, attracting competition from private bidders to take over governmental activities (Khey, 2015). The government may also contract private entities to provide medical, food, educational, mental health services, maintenance, and security functions.[Montes, Andrea N., and Daniel P. Mears. "Privatized corrections in the 21st century: Reframing the privatization debate." Criminology & Public Policy 18, no. 2 (2019): 217-239.] [Khey, David N. "Privatization of prison." The encyclopedia of crime and punishment (2015): 1-8.]
A common misconception about the privatization of prisons is that they become private entities completely separate from the government. Conversely, private correctional facilities enter into an agreement with a government or local correctional agency to house prisoners, while the government still oversees the operations of private prisons (Latessa et al., 2019). The government places regulations and limitations on private organizations (Latessa et al., 2019).12 Privatization of prison mostly occurs when prison facilities become a huge financial burden to the government, and thus the government turns to private entities for relief (Latessa et al., 2019).12 Privatization of prisons seems to be a sustainable solution to solving prison overcrowding (Latessa et al., 2019).12 Private entities can pump a lot of resources to improve the capacities of correctional facilities within a shorter time. They have the financial resources to expand privatized prisons or build new facilities for housing prisons, thus reducing overcrowding in prisons run by the government.[Latessa, Edward J., and Lori BrusmanLovins. "Privatization of community corrections." Criminology & Public Policy 18, no. 2 (2019): 323-341.12Ibid.12 Ibid12 Ibid]
Advantages of privatization of prison
Cost-saving on the Government
Correctional facilities are very costly to operate, which puts a huge strain on public resources. The government pays less for private prisons as the private entities take over the highest percentage of running the prisons. Research has revealed that private correctional facilities such as training schools and halfway houses are less costly to run by private organizations (Latessa et al., 2019).12 Besides, it is less costly to build private prisons compared to public prisons. For example, in Scotland, the building of new private prisons turned out to be less expensive than building public ones, by 700 million Euros; the private ones cost 1.3 billion Euros while it cost o.6 billion Euros to build the private ones. A study conducted by The British Home Office also showed that constructing private prisons saves 13-22% more than public correctional facilities (Latessa et al., 2019).12 Therefore, the government saves more through the privatization of prisons.
Population Control
Privatization of prisons helps in controlling the prison population, thus reducing overcrowding. Public prisons are currently operating beyond their required capacities, yet the government has not dealt with the problem due to public administration structures (Byrne et al., 2019). Private entities can easily collaborate with other agencies to expand prison facilities compared to the government. Contracted correctional facilities can house more prisoners, thus reducing overcrowding (Pavic et al, 2016). Also, prisoners in privatized prison facilities can easily be transferred to different designated locations, thus lessening the possibility of overcrowding.[Byrne, James, Kimberly R. Kras, and Lina Maria Marmolejo. "International perspectives on the privatization of corrections." Criminology & Public Policy 18, no. 2 (2019): 477-503.] [Pavić, Ivica. "Perspectives of Prison Privatization as a Solution to the Prison System Crisis in Croatia." European Journal of multidisciplinary studies 1, no. 6 (2016): 186-198.]
Disadvantages of prison privatization
Corruption and Influence on the judicial system
Prison privatizations are thought to have various benefits; however, they operate under several hidden costs and often do not function as they should (Dorfman et al., 2016). Besides, some private entities see prisoners as a commodity whose demand must constantly be created to create room for more supply and maximize profits (Dey, 2019).As a result, some private organization seven lobby for harsher sentences rather than parole or probation to ensure that their prisons remain full. Moreover, politicians and local governments are sometimes influenced, without realizing, to support rigorous penalties for purposes or political and financial backing(Ramirez, 2015). The judicial system ends up being corrupted, leading to harsh sentencing laws. As a result, the number of incarcerated persons in private prisons keeps growing, which could worsen the problem of overcrowding in the long run.[Dorfman, Avihay, and AlonHarel. "Against privatisation as such." Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 36, no. 2 (2016): 400-427.] [DeyRavena, Ade Mahmud. "The Implications of Overcrowding for Fostering Prisoners in Prison: Management and Systems Problems." Journal of Southwest Jiaotong University 54, no. 5 (2019).] [Ramirez, Mark D. "African Americans’ principled opposition to prison privatization." Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice 13, no. 3 (2015): 217-236]
High Violence and Harassment
Private entities are usually understaffed, which leads to more violence in the prisons. Private organizations often hire less competent officers because they offer lower wages, which cannot attract competent officers and staff (Gunderson, 2018). Besides, employees in private prisons are given less training, which compromises the services offered in private correctional facilities (Khey, 2015).11Incompetency of prison officers could lead to harassment of inmates, making them more violent, rather than correcting them. Besides, most prison facilities are understaffed, with officers-to-prisoners exceeding the required ratio of 1 to 120 (Khey, 2015).11 With high violence and harassment incidents, most prisoners end up completing their sentences worse than they got i...

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