What is meant by ‘private prison’? In this controversial area of penology and public administration even the terminology provides a battleground. Prison administrators tiptoe gently through the area talking about ‘contract management’ – a phrase calculated to reassure critics, as well as themselves, that these prisons are still their prisons and thus subject to the prevailing standards of public accountability. By contrast, observers who are ideologically opposed to this development emphasize the notion of ‘privatization’ – a concept already partially discredited in the western world because of its association with inflated profiteering and abandonment of the public interest. Some critics then go so far as to embrace derived terms such as ‘privateers’, redolent of piracy and pillage, to describe the private sector operators (Baldry 1994a).