Canada's only privately run jail, in Penetanguishene, Ont., will return to public control on Saturday after a performance evaluation found a public jail of equivalent size had better security, prisoner health care, and reduced repeat offender rates.

The Central North Correctional Centre, one of two identical maximum-security super-jails in Ontario built by the former Conservative government, houses more than 1,000 prisoners and has been under the watchful eye of a private firm for the last five years.

The other jail in Lindsay, near Peterborough, was kept under provincial control.

"We found that in basically every single area, the outcomes were better in the publicly run facilities," Ontario Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter told the CBC.

The government initially turned the Penetanguishene jail over to a private firm with experience running similar facilities in the United States. But six months ago, as the contract was set to expire, the government compared the two institutions and found the private jail fell short.

The report comparing the two prisons found the private jail also used fewer staff and ran fewer programs to help inmates.

It will cost $4 million to transfer the jail back to public ownership, but the government insisted the decision to make the change wasn't ideological.

"I have no real problem with the concept of it being run by the private sector," Kwintersaid. "But in the end, the results just didn't justify it."

'Apples-to-apples' comparison

Longtime critics of the facility have said the government's review gives credence to opponents of private jails around the world.

"It's the first time in the world that there's been an apples-to-apples comparison of two identical facilities," said Sharon Dion of Citizens Against Private Prisons.

But even the review acknowledged it had some shortcomings. Because of construction delays at the private jail, the review only looked at a year's worth of data and couldn't show how it performed over a longer period of time.

Most of the employees, including corrections officer Ken Neal, will become public servants.

Neal said he hopes life will get back to normal when the transition is completed.

"Hopefully, people will be able to go home at night and not be so stressed out because of the uncertainty," he told CBC News.