The Private Prison Controversy and the Privatization Continuum

Law and Ethics of Human Rights 5 (1):139-157 (2011)
Abstract
Imprisonment calls into question the institutionalized violence of the state and its organs. It touches on the very core of the meaning of state sovereignty and concerns one of the most disempowered groups of society: indicted criminals. Therefore, privatization of prisons signals the willingness to apply privatization policies almost with no limitations. Private prisons have become a known phenomenon in many countries. After the debate on this issue seemed to lose its pragmatic value—in contrast to its importance on the theoretical level—privatization of prisons reemerged as an issue of legal debate due to the Israeli Supreme Court decision that declared a law authorizing the establishment of a private prison unconstitutional. The following analysis evaluates this decision using it as a microcosm for studying the role of law in regulating privatization policies. The Article starts by studying the full range of privatization policies, in order to offer an analysis that would be relevant also to other cases along the privatization spectrum. It then challenges the traditional premise of public law that the move to privatization is merely a matter of policy and not of law. More concretely, the Article offers an analysis based upon distinguishing among three distinct spheres of discussion: the boundaries of privatization, the privatization process, and the regulation of privatized actions. This model of analysis is then applied to the case-study of prison privatization as decided by the Israeli Supreme Court
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