With the increase of incarceration rates within the last decades, private prisons have become more popular as a result, but are they effective? In our collective discussion of the criticisms of the justice system, privatization overlaps within the same complaints of racist policies and inferior training, which is crucial as human lives are at stake. As private sectors are being promoted by state legislature it’s important to discuss what makes privatization more desirable over public prisons and its practicability. In conjunctional research, we discuss the financial effectiveness alongside the political influence on their establishment.
The largest issue in evaluating research about prison privatization is that financial data between the private and public sector are using two extremely different samples. Private prisons have the ability to select which prisoners they wish to house which are often female low-level drug offenders whom are more likely to be less violent, and in turn, can pay less for security expenses. In addition, private prisons are not required to publicly release financial information making it difficult to effectively compare private and public sectors from a purely financial standpoint, but from what data is available we are able to critique the potential financial gain. The private sector relies on body counts to fund their operations, but what we found is that since private contracts are able to have a greater flexibility than their state counterparts, certain aspects of the quality of care and training are of a great concern. However, private prisons report they are reducing how much the tax payer contributes to prisons compared to the public sector, but there is a great amount of opposition to the liability of those numbers.
One of the issues around privatization is that while the intent is to save money, there is a trend of recidivism that doesn’t help improve the well-being of the prisoner. As a large majority of the prisoners in the private sector are there on drug charges the rate of return in higher than other offenses based on addictive qualities. It would be in the best interest of private prisons not to reform prisoners if their main argument is to house a certain amount of beds to maximize profit. While there isn’t a major motivating factor towards privatization among citizens there is an inclination towards laws that increase incarceration rates, which the private prisons are a direct response to this inflation of prisoners. Research gathered shows that laws that have statistically shown favor of racially motivated incarcerations resulting in a general increase in both private and public sectors specifically drug related.
In our findings the time gap of research had material focused on evaluations in early years of privatization from 1980-2000 and information set primarily in contemporary time with the Trump administration. This allows a distinction about imposed policies and how they interact in our current climate. There isn’t a substantial push for every day citizens to promote privatization as it is more a politically lobbied issue in that the private corporations are primarily pushing for their own promotion in politics. Mainly lobbyists from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group Inc hold over 60% of the stock in the private sector making it difficult to take a comparative stance whereas moral issues are more so being examined by the same political groups who critique police enforcement. Private prison shares skyrocket once Trump was elected due to his extreme immigration policies with the intention of wanting to deport undocumented immigrants. Shareholders predicted they would use private prisons to house the large number of undocumented immigrants, over 11 million, waiting to be deported. In turn, private prisons funded the Trump campaign knowing that his administration would assist those corporation during his presidential term. To an extent the majority of private prison lobbying groups’ support is directed towards the republican party. In 2016, 88% of the total contributions to federal candidates were given to republicans and in the earlier push for privatization in the 90’s had almost the same amount of contribution to politicians as the National Rifle Association.
One prominent solution to the concerns of the quality of care for prisoners and staff is a proposed private model used primarily in French prisons in where the construction and physical maintenance of the prisons are under private contract, which does save money, but staff and procedures operate under the overarching public sector allowing for clear and concise expectations across the board. This allows a compromise of financial interest while securing fairness and would be a great step for the US for the prison system focused more so on rehabilitation than strictly punishment. While private prisons continue to thrive, more investigation must be done to truly uncover the ambiguous financial statuses and a close analysis of accountability for the health of the inmates.
“Prison Privatization Stopped in New Hampshire.” American Friends Service Committee, 26 Feb. 2016, http://www.afsc.org/story/prison-privatization-stopped-new-hampshire.
Fahey, Mark, and Nick Wells. “Why the DOJ’s Decision Is Not a Death Sentence for Private Prisons.” CNBC, CNBC, 25 Aug. 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/25/juctice-department-decision-not-a-death-sentence-for-private-prisons.html.