Skip to main content

Originally published at Tikkun Daily |

From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the "drug war" and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.

However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project):

prison1
This stark rise in private prison populations is partially due to increased contracts granted at the state and federal levels to behemoth prison companies such as Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. These companies claim – against available data – that they can run corrections facilities at lower costs.

However, whether such companies can save governments money is not the central issue. What's at issue here is the corrupt, immoral dynamic that fuels such contracts: the concept of treating inmates as commodities that must be grown for profit.

Take, for example, the offer CCA made in 2012 to 48 states:

We'll purchase and manage your jails, and in return you [the state] must promise to keep the jails at least 90 percent full.
Such contracts, roundly criticized, provide incentives for local law enforcement to increase incarceration rates, rather than decrease them. In some instances, private prisons are grown not because crime increases, but because police harvest criminals as though they are a crop that must be stocked on the local shelves.

Additionally, for-profit prison companies engage in intense lobbying efforts that have been tied to many of our nation's most stringent sentencing guidelines, and lobby hard against the decriminalization of things such as marijuana.

The financial motive to engage in such lobbying was clearly detailed in CCA's 2010 Annual Report (as prepared by The Sentencing Project):

prison2
Such financial incentives to stock corrections facilities naturally leads to widespread corruption. Evidence of such corruption surfaced when two Pennsylvania judges were found guilty of selling juveniles to private detention facilities for millions of dollars. The "kids for cash" scandal, in which innocent children who should not have been locked up were sold for set amounts to the detention facilities, is shocking and harrowing.

However, even more shocking and harrowing is the fact that we have allowed free market pursuits to infiltrate our system of justice, making such scandals possible. When prisoners become products, we no longer have a justice system. We have an illicit marketplace. We have a corral.

America has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. And the private prison industry is a central driving force behind this. Add to this the staggering number of African-Americans locked up, and the private prison industry has essentially created a modern-day slave trade.

A trade that should never have been allowed to enter our criminal justice system in the first place.


Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Thu May 23, 2013 at 12:17 PM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project and DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site