The debate over prison privatization is one that has been going on for many years. There are pros and cons to privatization, and each side has valid points. Here is a look at some of the key arguments for against prison privatization.
-Private prisons can be more efficiently than public prisons, resulting in cost savings for taxpayers.
-Private prisons can be more responsive to the needs of prisoners and staff, leading to better conditions and safety.
-Private prisons can offer innovative programs and services that public prisons may not be able to provide.
-There is a risk that private prisons will prioritize profits over prisoner safety and rehabilitation.
-Private prisons may have less accountability and transparency than public prisons.
-There is a concern that private prisons will lead to more mass incarceration, as they have an incentive to keep prisons full.
The private prison business is expanding rapidly, with firms that were formerly part of the industry bringing in $1.7 billion worth of revenue in 2011, according to CCA (“Private Jails”). Many people have questioned the motives of those who own and operate these facilities since their inception. San Quentin was the initial for-profit prison in the United States, according to “Private Jails.”
The industry has seen a series of privatized jails and prisons open since with varying results. Federal government involvement in using private prisons goes back to the early 1990’s when “the Bureau of Prisons awarded CCA a $20 million contract to build and operate 1,000-bed prison in Texas” (Lee). The use of private prisons by federal, state, and local governments has been on the rise in recent years as lawmakers look for ways to cut costs.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been critical of the use of private prisons, arguing that they are motivated by profits rather than rehabilitation or public safety. They have also raised concerns about the treatment of prisoners in privately run facilities, citing reports of substandard conditions and mistreatment.
The private prison industry has come under scrutiny in recent years for its role in mass incarceration and its profit motive. There is a growing movement to end the use of private prisons, with some states and municipalities taking steps to do so. The federal government has also reduced its reliance on private prisons in recent years.
The 1980s marked a “wake of widespread privatization,” which was when private prisons rose in popularity again (“Private Jails”). Since the return of the private prison, there have been two primary factions. The profit-driven companies that run and build prisons, according to those who oppose private jails, creates an incentive to maintain high incarceration rates.
They also argue that prison privatization gives large corporations too much power over the criminal justice system (“Should Private Prisons Be Illegal?”). On the other hand, those who support private prisons state that they are more efficient and better managed than public prisons. They also argue that private prisons provide needed competition to public prisons, which will ultimately lead to improved conditions and services for prisoners (“The Pros and Cons of Private Prisons”).
The federal government began privatizing prisons in the 1990s as a way to save money. The first federal private prison was built in 1997 in La Tuna, Texas. As of 2013, there were 13 federal private prisons housing around 22,660 federal inmates, which is about 8.4% of the total federal prison population (“Private Prisons in the United States”). The three largest private prison companies that contract with the federal government are Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation (MTC) (“Private Prisons in the United States”).
The majority of prisoners in private prisons are at the state level. As of 2012, there were 102 privately operated prisons housing around 128,063 state inmates, which is about 6.9% of the total state prison population (“Private Prisons in the United States”). The two largest private prison companies that contract with states are CCA and The GEO Group (“Private Prisons in the United States”).
There are also some prisoners in private prisons that are owned by local governments. As of 2012, there were 17 privately operated prisons housing around 24,453 local inmates, which is about 2.3% of the total local prison population (“Private Prisons in the United States”). The two largest private prison companies that contract with local governments are CCA and The GEO Group (“Private Prisons in the United States”).
The use of private prisons has been controversial. Some argue that they are a necessary part of the criminal justice system, while others argue that they are unethical and should be illegal.
First, there is the safety risk that critics raise when the topic of private prisons comes up. Second, we have the dependency issue they address when discussing how much data has increased in recent years. Finally, we have the problem of keeping prisoners incarcerated to increase profits for the private prison industry. Because private prisons are in the business of making money, they are constantly tempted to cut corners to make more in a quarter.
The first concern, safety, is a legitimate one. Anytime we are talking about putting people in charge of other people who have been deemed unsafe for society, there is going to be some level of risk involved. The thing is, when we look at the data, private prisons are not any more dangerous than public prisons. In fact, they are actually slightly safer.
The second concern has to do with the idea that private prisons are somehow exploiting the system in order to make more money. The data simply does not support this claim. The number of people incarcerated in private prisons has actually gone down in recent years, not up.
The third and final concern is that private prisons are keeping people locked up longer in order to make more money. Again, the data does not support this claim. In fact, private prisons have been shown to release inmates at slightly higher rates than public prisons.
So, when we look at all of the data, it is clear that private prisons are not the evil entities that some people make them out to be. They are actually safe, efficient, and cost-effective. If we want to reduce our prison population and save taxpayer dollars, then privatizing our prison system is the way to go.