Wait … What?


Creighton is among only 90 universities in the country recognized for undergraduate opportunities for research, according to U.S. News & World Report. Here’s a snapshot of one student’s research project.

Title of Research

“The Diffusion of State Utilization of Private Prisons”

Student Researcher

Bethany Winslow, BA’19; international relations and economics major, sustainable energy minor; Austin, Texas

Faculty Mentor

Erika Moreno, PhD, associate professor of political science and international relations

What It Means

During the 1980s war on drugs, a number of states (as high as 47 at one point) began contracting with private prisons to handle increased incarcerations. This study examines why private prison contracts are continuing, despite relative decreases in prison population growth, concerns for inmate and officer safety, and lack of proof of cost efficiency. It concludes that a state’s decision to contract with a private prison is influenced by political contributions from private prison corporations, larger percentages of minority populations, having neighboring states that use private prisons, and a propensity to be open to initiating new policies. Understanding the motivations behind legislation to utilize private prisons could contribute to determining whether that is the best public policy.