BALDWIN—The Michigan Youth Correctional Facility—the state's first privately run prison—began receiving and processing inmates in batches of 40 at a time in July, and will reach its full capacity of 450 teenage rapists, murderers, carjackers and other criminals by November.

The 163,000 square-foot, maximum security facility will be run by Wackenhut Correctional Corporation, a Florida-based national prison company that maintains 41 other prisons around the world. Wackenhut built the prison in about 14 months at a cost of $40 million. Under a 25-year lease agreement with the state, Michigan will pay Wackenhut just under $5.6 million per year in rent, plus $67.50 per day for the care and feeding of each prisoner. Officials say that's at least a 5% savings when compared with the operating costs of Michigan's state-owned prisons.

Dubbed Michigan's "punk prison" by Governor John Engler and other leaders of the tough-on-crime movement, the facility houses offenders ages 13 to 20 who have been sentenced as adults because of the severity of their crimes. "Some of their crimes have been cold-blooded to a degree that seasoned law enforcement officers said they hadn't even encountered among adult criminals," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman William Van Regenmorter, R-Georgetown Twp., told The Detroit News.

The idea for "punk prisons" came about when an explosion of teenage violence spurred lawmakers to craft law changes to lower the age at which young offenders could be tried as adults. The opening of the Baldwin facility is the latest development in the Engler administration's ongoing effort to privatize more government services.