A private prison or for-profit prison, jail, or detention center is a place in which individuals are physically confined or interned by a third party that is contracted by a government agency. Private prison companies typically enter into contractual agreements with governments that commit prisoners and then pay a per diem or monthly rate for each prisoner confined in the facility.
Today, the privatization of prisons refers both to the takeover of existing public facilities by private operators and to the building and operation of new and additional prisons by for-profit prison companies.
In the modern era, the United Kingdom was the first country in all of Europe to use private prisons to hold its prisoners. Wolds Prison opened as the first privately managed prison in the UK in 1992. Soon private prisons were established under the government's Private Finance Initiative, where contracts are awarded for the entire design, construction, management and finance of a prison. Such prisons are run under contracts which set out the standards that must be met. Payments may be deducted for poor performance against the contract. Government monitors ('controllers') work permanently within each privately managed prison to check on conditions and treatment of prisoners, and privately run prisons are subject to inspection by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in the same way as publicly run ones. There are now 14 prisons in England and Wales operated under contract by private companies. Between them they hold about 10% of the prison population. A further 9 prisons are currently being market tested by the Government, with the public and private sectors both bidding to run them. There are also 2 privately run prisons in Scotland. Current operators in the United Kingdom are G4S (6), Sodexo Justice services (formerly know as Kalyx, and prior to that UKDS) (4) and Serco (6)
Private companies in the United States operate 264 correctional facilities, housing almost 99,000 adult convicts. Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Inc, and Community Education Centers. The GEO Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Securities.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has a capacity of more than 80,000 beds in 65 correctional facilities. The GEO Group operates 61 facilities with a capacity of 49,000 offender beds,
Most privately run facilities are located in the southern and western portions of the United States and include both state and federal offenders.