Profiteering private prison corporations are cashing in on the misery and desperation of U.S. citizens as many county jail and state prison systems privatize throughout the nation. Next to private health insurance corporations, there is no greater disconnect between the public good and private interests than the rise of corporate owned and operated jails.
Privatization/profiteering madness has now extended to over 6 million people under correctional supervision in the USA — more than ever were in Stalin’s gulags. The county jail has become the largest mental health facility in most American communities.
A growing number of Florida county jail and state prison facilities are now contracted out as for-profit businesses to for-profit companies. The companies are paid by local or state government, and their profit depends on spending as little as possible on the prisoners and the jails.
There is a toxic disconnect between public good and private profit: The interest of private jails lies not in the obvious social good of having the minimum necessary number of inmates but in having as many as possible, housed as cheaply as possible.
No more chilling document exists in recent American life than the 2005 annual report of the biggest of these firms, the Corrections Corporation of America. Here the company (which spends millions lobbying legislators) is obliged to caution its investors about the risk that somehow, somewhere, someone might turn off the spigot of convicted men:
“Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. … The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”
No better example exists of a private capitalist enterprise that feeds on the misery of man trying as hard as it can to be sure that nothing is done to decrease that misery.
Kudos to Alachua County for being among those local and state governments who reject contracting with private prison corporations. The commission wisely knows that adding a profiteering middleman to manage jail services does not lower costs and improve program quality.
Without evidence, private prison corporations always claim that their program will save the county and state millions annually. Despite many promises that jail and prison privatization will lead to big cost savings, such savings — as a comprehensive study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded — “have simply not materialized.” To the extent that private prison and jail operators do manage to save money, they do so through “reductions in trained staff, fringe benefits and other labor-related costs.”
The standard technique of privatization: defund government services to make sure things don’t work and people get angry, then hand it over to private capital. By continuing to defund local jail and state prison services, county commissions and state government allows the for-profit, private prison corporations to appear to “rescue” the county jail or state service via self-serving profit-driven programs.
It’s not long until privatization falls short in quality service; the private jail program saves money by employing fewer, less trained guards and other workers and pays them badly. Frequently, horror stories often accompany how these jails are run.
We should demand that private corporations be removed from the administration of our local and state public prison programs in Florida and nationwide. Privatization of jail services increases costs without any corresponding increase in quality or care. Economist Paul Krugman notes that “as more and more government functions get privatized, states become ‘pay-to-play paradises in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become quid pro quo for getting government busines.”
The corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage by the 1 percent is undermining local and state levels of government in Florida and across the USA. Since treatment, counseling and rehabilitation programs are not profitable, longer-term institutionalization by for-profit corporations is promoted via harsh sentencing guidelines and other means for keeping inmates doing lengthy, and very profitable for the corporation, sentences.
As long as the general population remains passive, apathetic and seemingly unable to advocate for its best interests, the powerful in county and state government, along with their corporate partners, will continue privatizing as they please — and laugh all the way to the bank.
Post originally published at http://www.gainesville.com/opinion/20160315/f-douglas-stephenson-prison-corporations-profit-on-misery
Written by F. Douglas Stephenson
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