For 28 years Alaska, like the vast majority of the nation, has struggled with growing prison populations and shrinking budgets. In 1995, the Alaska Department of Corrections, faced with sanctions unless they ameliorated their crowded prison conditions, looked to the popular practice of contracting out its correctional operations by sending 650 prisoners to a private out-of-state prison. But, as the costs of prisoner litigation and transportation mounted, the state began to consider building its own private prison, a decision which many state lawmakers and business entrepreneurs argued would allow the state to stretch scarce dollars by providing cheaper and better quality prisons, return millions of dollars to the state economy, and create permanent jobs. In this decision case, students are required to put themselves in the role of the Alaska Legislature to determine whether they should permit the building and operation of a private prison in one of Alaska's remote communities. The students must analyze and juggle the complex and often competing set of objectives, values, and political tensions intrinsic to all privatization decisions.
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