Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Corporate Perspective of Prison Privatization

Last year the "libertarian" think tank, the Reason Foundation, published a report on the successes of prison privatization across the country. Amidst a flurry of superficially impressive savings to strained state and federal budgets, the report sounds like an investor prospectus more than an unbiased analysis of the correctional system in the throws of partially transitioning to privatization. The report itself, while proclaiming the benefits of private prisons, discusses numerous violations ranging from poor food quality (resulting in a riot), to sexual misconduct between guards and prisoners, to permitting excessive inmate on inmate violence. The Arizona private prison that several inmates escaped from was found to have inadequate patrols and prisoner movement, excessive false alarms, a lax culture, and inconsistencies in visitor screening procedures. Although the prison was run by the Management and Training Corporation, the report places the blame squarely on oversight by the Arizona Department of Corrections. The Corrections Corporation of America was violating inmates' constitutional rights by preventing them from receiving books from Prison Legal News, yet it changed the policy shortly after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the prisoners.  The report can be found here"read more" for additional analysis...

In the California Spotlight, the report promotes moving inmates to out of state facilities as a cure to the overcrowding of the state's prisons. Yet, that does little
in the way of reducing the cost of the prison system to the California budget when compared to the federal judicial decision that the state must immediately release at least forty thousand prisoners. Although the report espouses the beneficial savings of privatization, it advocates a solution to California's overcrowding problem which keeps money flowing into the pockets of private companies, rather than complying with the judicial mandate and simply releasing prisoners. This money would remain in California's coffers if the prisoners were released (which the Supreme Court required in a decision delivered after the writing of the Reason Foundation's report.)

Furthermore, why is it beneficial for a state to send taxpayer money to be spent at out-of-state prison facilities, where there is no internal benefit to its own people? The report completely fails to take into consideration the effect of removing millions of dollars from a state's economy by sending prisoners to out of state private facilities. This undoubtedly damages the economy of a state and its people much more than the savings, glorified by the report and private prison contractors, benefits state budgets.

It is entirely unreasonable to assume that a private company can charge the state or federal government less for correctional services, still operate at a profit appeasing shareholders, and maintain a level of care our imprisoned citizens deserve.

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