Custody is the most expensive method of punishment in the western world, as compared to other alternatives. Although expensive, prison is an indispensible instrument to deal with judgment proof or dangerous offenders. Hence, by using the law and economics approach, this paper explores prison privatization as an instrument for less expensive incarceration. This method has the potential to reduce the prison costs without hampering its quality. However, a restructuring of the current contracts is needed to achieve this purpose. The attention given to the topic of private prisons by the law and economics scholars, especially in the European context, is limited and this paper attempts to fill this gap. The present paper applies arguments from the bureaucracy and political science literature to explain the inefficiencies of public prisons. Subsequently, the potential problems of private prisons are presented through the principle-agent model and solutions are offered.

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Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics (RILE) Working Paper Series
European Journal of Law Reform
Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics

Kantorowicz-Reznichenko, E. (2016). Can Imprisonment Be Cheaper? The Law and Economics of Private Prisons. European Journal of Law Reform, 17(4), 502–527. Retrieved from