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Position Statement

Privatization Enacted: Jan 2000   Revised: Jan 2001


The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) has the vision of a fair, just and safe society where community partnerships are restoring hope by embracing a balance of prevention, intervention and advocacy. APPA acknowledges that in order to achieve this vision, community supervision organizations must face and manage the continued demand for enhanced or specialized services and programming. This demand has spurred community supervision agencies to design both responsive and innovative programs to meet their specific organizations’ evolving needs, while maintaining full compliance with state laws and agency policies. The demand has also created a commercial market for the delivery of a broad range of specialized services related to probation and parole supervision. Consequently, community supervision agencies and policymakers continue to be confronted with the need to define the purpose, role and scope of involvement of private sector service providers in the delivery of community supervision services. APPA recognizes that the availability of specialized private sector services offers community supervision decision makers additional tools and/or options that, when utilized appropriately, can serve to assist an organization in addressing documented needs and achieving its missions. [APPA does not support or promote, however, the wholesale privatization of probation, parole and/or community-based corrections]. APPA believes that at no time should a private entity be able to make the decision to detain or incarcerate. APPA further believes that at no time can a public sector agency contract its primary responsibility for offender management, victim responsivity and community accountability to a private sector agency.

Position Statement

APPA acknowledges that public entities and policy makers retain the fundamental legal responsibilities assigned to them through legislation by the courts or governing boards. These government jurisdictions and their representatives are ultimately accountable for the quality and efficacy of private sector services delivered under contractual agreements, and retain all authority and responsibility to ensure that the missions, goals, objectives, compliance responsibilities and professional standards of their individual agencies are met.

APPA recognizes the responsibility of private sector service providers to uphold the missions, goals, objectives and professional standards of the accountable public agency. By operating within established parameters, standards, regulations and laws, private sector service providers can contribute to the ability of a government agency to serve the public and to responsibly and humanely supervise offenders placed under its jurisdiction. It remains the responsibility of the public agency to provide oversight of private sector providers to maintain accreditation standards.

In considering privatization, a jurisdiction must employ a systematic approach to evaluating whether the private sector provision of services is the alternative of choice in addressing specific identified needs. This must also take into consideration whether the staff of the private provider meets the same criteria (i.e., background and training) as public staff. The decision to privatize programs or services should be based on a thorough review of the experience of other jurisdictions’ privatization successes and failures, as well as on a thorough cost and benefit analysis. Prior to the decision to enter into a contract with a private sector service provider, there is an inherent burden to demonstrate that profit does not come at the expense or detriment of public safety, acceptable levels of service, professionalism or existing professional staff. APPA recognizes that all levels of public officials including executive, managerial and line staff offer perspectives that must be considered in evaluating the costs and benefits of privatized services based on a jurisdiction’s specific needs. It is also important to solicit input from community, advocacy and special interest groups, when this input is relevant to the service or program under consideration.

If it has been determined that private sector services will allow for a more immediate, more efficient, more economical and/or more effective response to individual jurisdiction needs, it is imperative that community supervision officials and other decision makers plan carefully and meticulously for the procurement, implementation and evaluation of commercial service delivery. Accountable community supervision agencies must establish clear parameters and specific outcome measurements for the evaluation of the quality and efficacy of private sector service delivery. These expectations must be expressly conveyed to potential private service providers through the bid solicitation process in advance of the awarding of a service contract or the execution of an agreement with the provider. It is incumbent on the accountable jurisdiction to ensure that a comprehensive implementation plan is developed that delineates service delivery activities and time lines. It is also the responsibility of the accountable jurisdiction to oversee, manage, monitor, collect data on and comprehensively evaluate contractual program/service activities and to share results of the evaluations with other jurisdictions.

APPA recognizes the potential of commercial service providers to offer viable options to community supervision agencies as part of an agency’s strategic plan. Private sources may make accessible expertise or specialized services with which the jurisdiction has had little experience or involvement. Private service providers may also enable a jurisdiction to become involved with more creative service practices and advanced technologies, paving the way for other operational innovations.