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Criminal justice policy makers face complex choices regarding how best to allocate available state revenues so as control the cost of institutional corrections without reducing the quality of correctional service delivery. In early 1999 the Minnesota Department of Corrections faced the prospect that operation of a new close-custody prison facility under construction by the DOC in Rush City, Minnesota, might be contracted to a private corporation. To better inform policy deliberations on the issue, a study was initiated by the DOC to examine current experience with privatization of prisons in Minnesota, and in other states, and to identify and explore the issues that would need to be addressed if policymakers wished to expand the role of private prison management in the state. This article reports on a segment of that research involving a comparison of the services and programs offered in the state’s medium-security prisons – one privately owned and operated, and three owned by the state and operated by the Minnesota DOC.

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