It’s a good thing when one can improve health services while simultaneously improving the health of one’s budget. That’s why it is commendable that Saint Louis County is looking into privatizing medical and mental health services for the inmates at its Justice and Juvenile Centers.

The County is accepting bids in order to improve services and cut down on costs. It has good reasons to believe that privatizing these services will result in these better outcomes. In 2003, the County privatized its pharmacy services in order to save on costs. What resulted was not only cost savings, but an increased quality of service to residents.

Privatization is not appropriate in all circumstances. For example, privatizing police services would not be good policy. Nor should the ownership and operation of jails themselves be privatized. However, within public jails, certain services can certainly be privatized, including food service and health care.  

There is no guarantee that privatizing inmate health care will have the same great result as privatizing the pharmacy did. However, if past performance is any indicator of future results, Saint Louis County has good reason to continue with this course of action. The County administration deserves a pat on the back for considering this move. I’m confident that, as with the pharmacy, the County will do the due diligence to make this work for better results for taxpayers and better services to inmates.

Michael Rathbone

About the Author

Michael Rathbone
Michael Rathbone was a policy researcher at the Show-Me Institute. He is a native of Saint Louis and a 2008 graduate of Saint Louis University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering.