Private Prison Project

Prison Privatization and Public Discourse

Brett Burkhardt (

Pamela Oliver

NSF Award 09-25328

Project Summary

We identified and downloaded nearly 1500 articles on prison privatization published 1985-2008 in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. After careful reliability tests, we coded the frames used for discussing prison privatization in the 700 articles for which prison privatization was judged to be the main topic of the article based on the headline and opening paragraphs. We also identified individual utterances about private prisons and their speakers in the 1500 articles.Coding of utterance-level data is continuing after the end of the NSF award.

We also collected 1000 articles from Wisconsin newspapers relating to contention over a failed prison privatization effort in that state and more limited information from smaller newspapers in other states including Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These articles have not yet been coded.

Data Sets and Documentation

Data available for sharing that were compiled with NSF funding are the article-level data. There are five files available:

  1. “PPNP file description”: A brief description of the project and the data. Microsoft Word file 6KB.
  2. “FRAMING CODEBOOK FINAL (ARTICLE LEVEL)”: Instructions used to code
    frames. PDF file. 136KB
  3. “PPNP table of article level variables”: Summary of the variables in the article-level dataset. Excel File. 18KB
  4. “PPNP_article_public.csv”: Article-level data (CSV format). 450 KB
  5. “PPNP_article_public.dta”: Article-level data (Stata format). 1060 KB

Publications and papers

Burkhardt, Brett C. 2011. “Private Corrections and Public Discourse: The Emergence and Legitimation of Modern Correctional Privatization in the United States, 1985-2008.” PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Burkhardt, Brett C. 2011. “Private Prisons in Public Discourse: Measuring Moral Legitimacy.” Politics, Culture, and Society Working Papers Series. Retrieved June 5, 2012 ( Papers/201101Burkhardt.pdf).

Other papers from this project are still in process.