To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice

To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice

by Bruce L. Benson
     
 

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In contrast to government's predominant role in criminal justice today, for many centuries crime control was almost entirely private and community-based. Government police forces, prosecutors, courts, and prisons are all recent historical developments–results of a political and bureaucratic social experiment which, Bruce Benson argues, neither protects the

Overview

In contrast to government's predominant role in criminal justice today, for many centuries crime control was almost entirely private and community-based. Government police forces, prosecutors, courts, and prisons are all recent historical developments–results of a political and bureaucratic social experiment which, Bruce Benson argues, neither protects the innocent nor dispenses justice.

In this comprehensive and timely book, Benson analyzes the accelerating trend toward privatization in the criminal justice system. In so doing, To Serve and Protect challenges and transcends both liberal and conservative policies that have supported government's pervasive role. With lucidity and rigor, he examines the gamut of private-sector input to criminal justice–from private-sector outsourcing of prisons and corrections, security, arbitration to full "private justice" such as business and community-imposed sanctions and citizen crime prevention. Searching for the most cost-effective methods of reducing crime and protecting civil liberties, Benson weighs the benefits and liabilities of various levels of privatization, offering correctives for the current gridlock that will make criminal justice truly accountable to the citizenry and will simultaneously result in reductions in the unchecked power of government.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
In his provocative analysis, Benson (economics, Florida State U.; The Independent Institute, Oakland, CA) argues for contracting out and other controversial "private justice" options as preferable to government's pervasive and misguided criminal justice role. "Why the timing may be right" is the theme of the preface by Marvin Wolfgang, Director of the U. of Pennsylvania's Sellin Center for Studies in Criminology and Criminal Law. The Austrian School of the series title favors less government economic control. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Ruth Ann. Strickland
Given the political climate following the 1994 congressional and gubernatorial elections, Bruce Benson, in TO SERVE AND PROTECT, contends that the time might be right for greater private sector involvement in crime control activities. Indeed, he argues, private-public partnerships are more pervasive and more beneficial than commonly believed. Using microeconomic theory, Benson analyzes whether the claims of critics of privatization are valid, especially the claim the for-profit businesses will cut corners and produce a lower quality service to make greater profits.

Contracting out (or partial privatization) of policing, security, corrections and court-related law enforcement services, although limited when compared to public sector provision of the same services, has expanded in scope and numbers in the last 25 years. In an examination of the potential benefits and pitfalls of contracting out, Benson concludes that contracting out typical government services to private businesses reduces costs and may enhance quality of services, depending on whether the contracting out process was competitive or noncompetitive (meaning the process was influenced by bribery, corruption, or overt political maneuvers).

In the last chapter, Benson makes several recommendations, including more crime prevention watching by citizens in their communities, more community policing, increasing the use of private security, eliminating licenses and other regulatory restrictions on private security markets, ending publicly supervised pretrial release programs, encouraging more private prosecutions, privatizing indigent defense, civil remedies against police who violate constitutional rights of citizens, creating private courts with a focus on restitution, making criminals "pay" for their crimes through a commercial bail system and marketing prisoner's labor. Other subsidiary suggestions accompany these recommendations with explanations of how they might be implemented.

Each recommendation is discussed in some detail and fit together to form Benson's vision of a utopian private justice system. He anticipates "considerable political resistance" to such reforms, and he argues "crime can actually be relatively effectively controlled through the interactions of private buyers and sellers and through various voluntary cooperative arrangements". He submits that one purpose of his book is to give a road map to victims' advocacy groups that they might use to create a criminal justice system more responsively to the "desires of individual crime victims." We must not forget, as we read this book, that it is a criminal justice system, not a victim justice system. It provides a "collective" good that may create some disjuncture between the whims and desires of individual crime victims and overall societal well-being. In my opinion, somewhere along the way in this libertarian treatise the author loses sight of this. Well written and provocative, it should be read by criminal justice professionals and academicians with the perspective that he offers some valid criticisms of the public sector's handling of criminal justice and offers some recommendations that warrant consideration.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814709122
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
08/01/1998
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Bruce Ellis Benson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College. He is the author of Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida, and Marion on Modern Idolatry and The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue: A Phenomenology of Music.

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