The Private Provision of Security

One of the basic functions of government in the modern era is to provide security for its citizens. Sometimes governments are unwilling or incapable of producing enough security, and so instead they will delegate the use of force to private citizens so they can provide security themselves. Here are two recent examples:

Although the Mexican government has made some progress with its fight against drug cartels, drug related violence still plagues certain regions of Mexico. In response, some Mexican citizens have formed vigilante groups to help fight back against the cartels. For a while the groups have been helping the government officials fight against the cartels. Last week the Mexican government finally recognized and "legalized" some of these groups. "The government said it had reached an agreement with vigilante leaders to incorporate the armed civilian groups into old and largely forgotten quasi-military units called the Rural Defense Corps." So the vigilantes will have some autonomy, but the Mexican government will still be able to monitor their behavior.

During the late 1990s, the state of Idaho began a push towards privatizing prisons in the state. Currently, the largest private prison in the state is run by Corrections Corporation of America. However, this will not be for long. Not only did the state of Idaho delegate the control over prisons to a private corporation, employees of the corporation themselves delegated the provision of security to inmates. Apparently gang violence got out of control in the prison, and so the prison guards worked with a handful of gang leaders to keep the inmates in line. It is possible that the prison could have hired more guards to control the violence, but apparently the prison was consistently understaffed. (The state of Idaho was unaware of this: "CCA acknowledged last year that falsified staffing reports were given to the state showing thousands of hours were staffed by CCA workers when the positions were actually vacant.")

About Julie VanDusky-Allen

Julie VanDusky-Allen is at Boise State University and received her PhD in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2011. Her research focuses on institutional choice and development, political parties, the legislative process, and Latin American politics.

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