In America, there are over two million people in the American prison system. Many companies such as GEO Group, and The Corrections Corporation of America, make vast amounts of money with having private prisons filled. These 3rd party prison’s intentions are not for the rehabilitation of the inmates, or reducing crime, but rather to create profit.
The intended purpose of these private prisons is to save the state money. Although some studies show they do, they are often funded by the industry. But many other outsourced funded studies not only say they don’t save money but usually the opposite. Many of these studies show they cost more for the state, and ultimately the taxpayers. But beyond money, the ethical practices among these private prisons are vastly debatable. Along with the use of lobbying to push for new contracts and stricter punishments on many non-violent crimes, a significant problem has been created that many people are unaware of.
Private Prisons: Profit from Nonviolent Drug Offenses
The government contracts, which are signed with these private institutions, include clauses on the capacity of the private prisons. Many including minimums upwards of at least 90% of max capacity at all times. So this leads to the U.S. having the world’s largest prison population, upwards of 2.2 million individuals are incarcerated in the United States today. Compared to only 319,000 in 1980. The reason for such an increase in the prison population is vastly stricter policies on non-violent drug offenses.
Today, nonviolent drug offenses fill up to 50% of the federal prison population compared to only 21% of the same offenders in 1980. Today, nonviolent drug offenses are up nearly 1100% compared to the 80’s. These statistics show that drug offenders are making up a considerable part of the prison system. Arguably these arrests aren’t making anyone safer, and only cost taxpayers who fund these private prisons. Instead of aiding in the rehabilitation of these inmates, these organizations profit from them. The majority of the people being arrested and put into for-profit prisons are addicts with no prior record. Instead of getting some form of treatment for their addiction, they are getting hit with longer sentences.
Illegal Immigrants Welcome
Along with drug offenders, many private prisons make upwards of billions of dollars in the detainment of illegal immigrants. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is paying Correction Corporation of America, one of the largest private prison companies, 5.1 billion dollars to hold only 23,000 illegal immigrants. That is over 220,000 dollars per inmate. The Correction Corporation of America almost went bankrupt in the early 2000’s before landing huge contracts with the government. Through the use of lobbying, the CCA and many other private prisons, have gotten whatever laws they sought passed. 45 million dollars have gone towards lobbying for these private prisons.
The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released a report about lobbying practices and the purpose of the 45 million dollars. It included not only affecting the length of sentences but also aiding in the fight for stricter laws. Again another example of these for-profit prisons who are not just filling a need for prisons. Their real intentions are to make money through incarcerating people. Through the use of lobbying, many government officials ignore the ethical issues of these facilities, because they benefit from it as well.
How do Private Prisons Compare to other Federal Prisons?
In their efforts of cutting costs, for-profit prisons have much poorer conditions for their inmates compared to federal prisons. The average cost to feed an inmate is between $2 and 3 dollars. Compared to a little over $8 for the average American. Not only are these inmates in private prisons underfed, but often fed with the cheapest, sometimes even expired, foods. In the summer of 2014 the privately run company Aramark, who distributed food in prisons in Michigan and Ohio, was slammed for multiple reports of having maggots in their food. This is just one example of the quality of food that is fed to inmates. Even though plenty of money is allocated by government contracts to feed inmates, private prisons are cutting costs to create more money.
Another thing these private prisons will put their inmates through is work for little compensation. What makes this worse is that inmates work on making apparel for government agencies. Bulletproof vests, ID tags, and 100% of military helmets are created through prison labor. These inmates are paid as low as $.50 an hour. So not only are inmates creating great wealth for the owners of these private prisons, but through their labor fueling the military-industrial complex. Many non-violent drug offenders in prison are making tools to be used overseas in violent wars. So some could make the argument that the government is ignoring the ethical problems these private for profit prisons create because they also benefit from the increased prison population.
Private Prison Impact
Many people are often unaware of these for-profit prisons, or the impact they can have on people’s lives. Not only do these prisons affect inmates’ lives, but also their families. Many people who don’t deserve to be in the prison system are thrown in, and for much longer periods than the crime warrants. All in the effort to make money. Inmates are hit with felony charges so they spend time in prison, can’t find work after, and often end back in the system where they didn’t belong in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle created by these institutions. Many of the things these private prisons do to cut costs, are heinous in nature, and there is very little anyone is doing to change that. These private prisons hurt millions of people and their families, all for the sake of money.