Many commentators see the main justification for privatizing prisons as lying in cost reduction. For example, the General Accounting Office of the USA stated in a 1991 review that, so far, ‘empirical studies have not shown a clear [financial] advantage of private prisons over publicly-operated ones and, therefore, a clear-cut recommendation favouring them cannot be made’ (author’s emphasis) (General Accounting Office 1991:29). It will by now be evident that such a conclusion is, in the author’s view, something of a non sequitur. The hypothesis of this book is that privatization, properly regulated, can operate so as to bring about improvement across the whole penal system, and although as a by-product of this process there will usually be some worthwhile reduction in outlays, the alternative form of service delivery does not stand or fall simply by this expectation. 1