The Private Prisons Edition

Today we talk about a milestone in the saga of privatization.

The Private Prison Edition

The Federal government announced a gradual phase out of the use of private prisons. It turns out that studies show that the government run prisons do a much better job, a much, much better job, as the investigative report cited below conclusively proves.

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The Private Prison Edition

This may be a turning point in the neo-liberal privatization story. For years, decades, we’ve been told that everything the government does can be done better by private business. Usually this discussion centers around quasi-religious claims of the free-marketers, you know, some Ayn Rand stuff with scary collectivists and greed being the greatest and most wonderful human impulse of all time. It gives you a sense of how awful it would be to be trapped on a long flight trapped against the window with a free market zealot sitting right next to you.

This may be it, the turning points – the place where people say, “Hey, these private companies promised us the moon and we got worse what they wanted to replace – what gives?”

“What gives?” is the simple lie that private industry can always outperform the government. That’s nonsense. Sometimes, you have subjects that don’t lend themselves well to the profit motive like war and health care. The private sector moves in, scoops up the money and the you’re left with a disaster. Probably, a private company might make a better uniform or provide a service but the government does not always seek to make a profit, sometimes it needs to win a war or make sick people well. For profit making both war and sickness need to last as long as possible but for the sake of the nation we need victory and health.

But in spite of the economic disasters of the last decade, neo-liberalism’s adherents are not discouraged. They’ll be back. They’ll have a think tank make up some studies, hire a couple of ivy league economists to explain the beauty and purity of the free market and how the government must in theory not work well. They’ll say, “Just give us a few billion dollars and watch the money roll in.” Just like they always do.

And we need to be there to say no.

James Pilant

Feds Done with Private Prisons

Yates said in her memo that research had found private prisons “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources” and “do not save substantially on costs” either. Essential government education and training programs for prisoners “have proved difficult to replicate and outsource” in the private sector, she said.

The decision was announced days after the Department of Justice’s inspector general released a damning investigation report. It found instances of inmate-on-inmate assaults were 28% higher in contract prisons than in government-run facilities, and that the confiscation of contraband mobile phones occurred eight times more frequently.

Federal inmates in private prisons were found to be nine times more likely to be placed on lockdown than those at other federal prisons, and were frequently subjected to arbitrary solitary confinement.

The Feds run prisons better than private companies. 

For the most part, however, the report lays out a much more mundane case against private prisons. The private facilities failed, in large part, not because of high profile incidents — but because, compared to their government-run counterparts, they simply weren’t good at running a correctional facility. In this battle between socialism and the free market, socialism clearly won.

After the Inspector General’s office evaluated prisons along eight different categories, it found that private facilities underperformed government-run prisons in six of them. “Contract prisons,” the report explains, “had more frequent incidents per capita of contraband finds, assaults, uses of force, lockdowns, guilty findings on inmate discipline charges, and selected categories of grievances.”

Mother Jones article on CCA

Private prisons pose serious problems 

Still, where private prisons do exist, they seem to pose extraordinary problems.

The OIG report isn’t the first to indicate that private prisons are worse off, although it is the most recent one. A 2001 report from the Department of Justice found the rate of inmate-on-inmate violence at private prisons was 38 percent higher than the rate at public prisons. And in a four-month undercover investigation, reporter Shane Bauerwitnessed high levels of violence — particularly stabbings, which seemingly went underreported in official numbers — and lockdowns at a private prison in Louisiana.

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Private Prisons are a Bad Idea

c39ePrivate Prisons are a Bad Idea

New Hampshire House Votes To Prohibit Private Prisons | ThinkProgress

 

At its core, the entire private prison industry profits when people are imprisoned, meaning stricter drug and immigration laws produce larger profits. Private prison operators know this, and have spent more than $45 million on lobbying federal and state lawmakers over the past decade, including top Republicans influencing the immigration debate. Indeed, the CEO of one of the largest private prison groups, the Corrections Corporation of America, assured investors on a recent call that there would continue to be “strong demand” for prison cells, even after immigration reform. The industry stands to rake in $5.1 billion detaining immigrants alone.

Though conservatives regularly argue privatizing industries makes them leaner and more cost-effective, the opposite is true for prisons. In Arizona, for example, private prisons cost $3.5 million per year more than state-run prisons. In Florida, the state has started laying people off after privatizing prisoners’ health care. In addition, private prisons are riddled with violations, including emergency procedures and cleanliness.

New Hampshire House Votes To Prohibit Private Prisons | ThinkProgress

Some services, some activities, have to be kept public because their importance is such that debating them solely from a monetary aspect diminishes intelligent decision making.  And we’re talking about the deprivation of freedom, a subject of some importance. What reduces crime while safeguarding the interests of the individual? How many subjects of such importance do we discuss as a society?

James Pilant

From the web site, National Prison Divestment: (I love these guys!)

As the immigration reform debate heats up, an important argument has been surprisingly missing. By granting legal status to immigrants and ordering future flows, the government could save billions of dollars. A shift to focus border security on real crime, both local and cross-border, would increase public safety and render a huge dividend to cash-strapped public coffers.

This kind of common-sense immigration reform has the multibillion-dollar private prison industry shaking in its boots. Its lobbyists are actively targeting members of congressional budget and appropriations committees to not only maintain, but increase incarceration of migrants — with or without comprehensive immigration reform.

While a broad public consensus has formed around the need to legally integrate migrants into the communities where they live and work, private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, thrive off laws that criminalize migrants, including mandatory detention and the definition of immigration violations as felonies. They are using their money and clout to assure that even if immigration reform goes through, the practice of locking people up for immigration infractions will continue.

From the web site, Student Activism: (This is a great blog, you should consider subscribing.)

Controversial private prison company the GEO Group announced yesterday that it is pulling out of a deal to buy naming rights for the Florida Atlantic University football stadium.

GEO’s prisons, including immigration detention centers and juvenile correctional facilities, have been the sites of a long list of documented violations of prisoners’ rights, and students have been protesting the FAU stadium naming deal since it was announced in February, staging public demonstrations and referring to the new stadium as “Owlcatraz.” The university, however, had until yesterday given GEO and the deal vocal public support, insisting that it would go forward.

From the web site, Prisonmovment’s Webblog: (I like the phrase, “cesspool of filth and decay,” it’s clever.)

How would you describe an industry that wants to put more Americans in prison and keep them there longer so that it can make more money?  In America today, approximately 130,000 people are locked up in private prisons that are being run by for-profit companies, and that number is growing very rapidly.  Overall, the U.S. has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has 5 percent of the total global population.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the entire globe by far, and no nation in the history of the world has ever locked up more of its own citizens than we have.  Are we really such a cesspool of filth and decay that we need to lock up so many of our own people?  Or are there some other factors at work?  Could part of the problem be that we have allowed companies to lock up men and women in cages for profit?  The two largest private prison companies combined to bring in close to $3,000,000,000 in revenue in 2010, and the largest private prison companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.  Putting Americans behind bars has become very big business, and those companies have been given a perverse incentive to push for even more Americans to be locked up.  It is a system that is absolutely teeming with corruption, and it is going to get a lot worse unless someone does something about it.

From the web site, Prison Pork:

From The Daily Kos – ” I have a new and self-imposed policy that I follow when I see a news report of some bull-headed politician proposing some law to put low-level drug possessors in prison. That rule? Follow the money, of course.Because something hideous is festering under the surface of these laws. It’s the private prison lobby, which makes campaign contributions to secure harsher penalties. You see, these prison companies are in need of warm bodies, since they can put those people to work inside the walls of those prisons. The companies double-dip, too, pulling in a guaranteed sum from the state in addition to whatever they can make with their legalized slave labor. Weed offenders are just the sorts of people these prison profiteers are looking for. They’re mostly non-violent people who will comply. They can be put to work without much worry.This week, Indiana got into the mix, as its governor Mike Pence pushed for changes to legislation on drug crime. Among his suggested changes:

Tougher marijuana possession and dealing penalties could be added to a proposed overhaul of Indiana’s criminal sentencing laws by legislators after Gov. Mike Pence questioned whether the plan was strict enough on low-level drug offenders. One proposed change expected to be voted on Thursday would make possession of between about one-third of an ounce and 10 pounds of marijuana the lowest-level felony rather than the highest-level misdemeanor.

Why would this Republican governor suggest policies designed mostly for the destruction of communities and budgets alike? Mostly because he and others are politically aligned with the very prison companies that run the show.

 

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The Private Prison Problem

002thThe Private Prison Problem

New Hampshire Dems Stick It To Greedy GOP | Addicting Info

On Friday, the Democratic controlled New Hampshire House voted 197-136 to ban the privatization of the state’s prison system. Whether this passes the Republican held (13-11) Senate is debatable but considering that last year there was movement to hand the prison system over to for-profit corporations, the move is significant.

From further down in the article –

The problem with private prisons is that they have absolutely no incentive to rehabilitate or even release prisoners. Early parole is bad for business. Reducing recidivism is really bad for business. Even more disturbing is the amount of money and effort the private prison industry puts into creating more jailable offenses, lengthening sentences and introducing mandatory sentencing for crimes as small as having a half-smoked joint in your pocket. That the industry is a big supporter of the War on Drugs goes without saying.

Private prisons cost more, have terrible safety and health records and several have been implicated in scandals to bribe judges to hand down harsher sentences in order to keep the prisons filled. This reprehensible behavior has even extended to the juvenile justice system. The logic is clear: kids that go to juvie tend to become adult criminals. Get’em while they’re young and you’ll have a customer for life.

Another dark facet of the Prison Industrial Complex is the push for “immigration crack-downs.” The industry is a major force behind the “sudden” urge for Republican-controlled states to arrest every person with brown skin they can find. Arizona’s now-infamous SB1070 was specifically created to make money for prison corporations who would then “share” their good fortune with the state. If you thought parking tickets were a nuisance, imagine being locked up for the sole purpose of closing your state’s budget shortfall.

New Hampshire Dems Stick It To Greedy GOP | Addicting Info

“no incentive to rehabilitate or even release prisoners”  I remember more than a decade ago when I was reading about a legislative attempt to soften the drug laws in New York state, when the rural members strongly objected. They objected on the grounds they would lose jobs from the private prisons, the principal employers in their districts. I was shocked. I thought the discussion should be about justice and what was right. Instead the legislature wound up talking about jobs and economic development in depressed areas.

We are at a turning point in the history of American criminal justice. Imprisonment rates are dropping for the first time in decades. There is considerable reconsideration of the “war on drugs.” There is increasing controversy over standards on forensic testing. We are confronted on a regular basis by the innocent who have spend years (often decades) behind bars for crimes they did not commit. We are dealing with the issue of prosecutorial overreach and misconduct (the Swartz case).

Change is in the air.

But the kind of changes being considered are hobbled by the fact that private industry makes a profit every day they keep a person in a private prison. After Citizens United, we are beset with corporate money damaging the chances of having an intelligent discussion and lobbying for even more incarceration as a panacea for all criminal justice problems.

Citizens United endangers every form of intelligent policy perverting every discourse into a discussion of who profits. There are other values besides money. One of our more precious values is to not be imprisoned without good reason.

One of the intelligent changes we need is the abolition of private prisons across the board in this nation, everyone of them. The precious right to freedom cannot coexist with a profit in denying it. It is long standing principle in American justice that a monetary interest in finding someone guilty is wrong. That is why we don’t have organ donors from death row. It would make sentencing people to death a more attractive option.

Imprisonment is a public function not a private one. It is a common burden on society because of a joint shared decision to use confinement as a means of justice.

It constantly needs rethinking because of its critical importance as an issue.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, National Prison Divestment Campaign:

Over the past decade, Wells Fargo Bank has advertised to Latinos through community outreach, Spanish-language advertising and programs that allow immigrants, without U.S. identification, to open bank accounts.

However, Wells Fargo has also invested in the GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison company, which operates private prisons and immigration detention centers, reports Univision and Salon.com.

Mary Moreno, the communications director for the National People’s Action Campaign, told Univision: “They’re trying to win over all these Latino customers, but at the same time they’re promoting prisons for immigrants. Profits should never be a motive for incarcerating people.”

From the web site, Prison Pork:

In the wake of the announcement that Florida Atlantic University would name its football stadium after private prison corporation GEO Group for a hefty price, an executive at the company is disseminating false and misleading information about the firm’s practices and documented abuses at its facilities.

In both a statement to reporters and an op-ed, GEO Vice President for Corporate Relations Pablo Paez has falsely claimed that horrific abuses at a GEO juvenile detention facility in Mississippi described by the Department of Justice as “systematic, egregious, and dangerous practices exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls” occurred before GEO took control of the prison, even though both DOJ and court documents clearly show otherwise.  …

From the web site, Capital Weekly:

In three years, a private-prison construction and management company, the Corrections Corporation of America, has seen the value of its contracts with the state soar from nearly $23 million in 2006 to about $700 million three months ago – all without competitive bidding. Even in a state accustomed to high-dollar contracts, the 31-fold increase over three years is dramatic.
During the same period, the company’s campaign donations rose exponentially, from $36,750 in 2006, of which $25,000 went to the state Republican Party, to $233,500 in 2007-08 and nearly $139,000 in 2009.  The donations have gone to Democrats, Republicans and ballot measures. The company’s largest single contribution, $100,000, went to an unsuccessful budget-reform package pushed last year by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

From the web site, Spikes Mind:

How would you describe an industry that wants to put more Americans in prison and keep them there longer so that it can make more money?  In America today, approximately 130,000 people are locked up in private prisons that are being run by for-profit companies, and that number is growing very rapidly.  Overall, the U.S. has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has 5 percent of the total global population.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the entire globe by far, and no nation in the history of the world has ever locked up more of its own citizens than we have.  Are we really such a cesspool of filth and decay that we need to lock up so many of our own people?  Or are there some other factors at work?  Could part of the problem be that we have allowed companies to lock up men and women in cages for profit?  The two largest private prison companies combined to bring in close to $3,000,000,000 in revenue in 2010, and the largest private prison companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.  Putting Americans behind bars has become very big business, and those companies have been given a perverse incentive to push for even more Americans to be locked up.  It is a system that is absolutely teeming with corruption, and it is going to get a lot worse unless someone does something about it.

From the web site, Friends of Justice:

In the wake of the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional facility scandal, the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced that GEO Group — one of the largest private prison corporations in the U.S. — will no longer operate three correctional facilities in the state.  By July 20, the corporation will no longer manage the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional, East Mississippi Correctional, or the Marshall County Correctional facilities.

In 2010, reports emerged of sexual abuse, improper medical care, extended prisoner isolation, and violence among inmates at the Walnut Grove facility.  These reports sparked a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  The lawsuit resulted in the removal of youth from the Walnut Grove facility. According to the Associated Press, MDOC also had concerns about incidents that occurred at the other GEO Group facilities in the state.

And from the web site, Wickersham’s Conscience:

By determining that an Alaska prisoner doesn’t have the right to recover money from a private prison contractor, the court has cut off the best single way to get a private prison contractor’s attention: by nibbling at their bottom line. In effect, the court is deciding that all prisoner litigation is chaff.

The mistake the court makes, WC thinks, is in treating public prisons and private prisons the same. They are not. As WC has argued before, a public prison has no motivation to keep a prisoner any longer than necessary. A private prison, paid a fixed amount per prisoner per day, has every incentive to keep the private prison census high, because it maximizes revenue. A private prison, for example, might be inclined to impose more discipline on prisoners because, under the system for credit for “good behavior,” it means the prisoners stay longer. And the private prison gets more money.

If Perotti’s “segregation” for  ”investigation of possible possession of escape paraphernalia” results in Perotti serving more time, even if the “investigation” was baseless, CCA is a net winner. Perotti – and the State of Alaska, which is paying CCA – are net losers. By failing to take into account or even to acknowledge the different situation presented by a private prison contractor.

 

 

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