Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Corrupting Influence of Incarceration for Profit

Recently in a short piece in the business section of The New York Times, Eduardo Porter provided some cautionary advice about privatizing state-owned companies and government services. Caution is particularly important, he writes, in an age when loud voices in federal legislatures, state houses, and city halls are suggesting "privatizing everything from Medicare to the management of state parks as a possible solution to their budget woes." While privatization can sometimes "help achieve broad social goals," the profit motive can "directly undermine public policy goals." This is important to remember especially as so many of our states are privatizing prisons, ostensibly to save money. What seems to be happening, however, is that savings are ephemeral, non-existent, or lead to unethical or even criminal outcomes.

Here are stories, research, investigations that can perhaps help us--and convince others--to resist the loud and seductive voices of profit and privatization in the criminal justice system.

1. The story of the Pennsylvania judges who took millions of dollars in kickbacks in a juvenile detention scheme:
2. The Cash for Kids documentary that tells the story of the juveniles whose lives were ruined by  greed: showing 4:00 p.m., Saturday, March 8, at the Zeitgeist Theater in New Orleans.(See, also, our Events page for more information.)

or Amy Goodman's interviews with the young people and/or their parents affected by the profit scheme that two justices had with builders and owners of private prison facilities: "Kids for Cash: Inside One of the Nation's Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals,"  Democracy Now!, 4 February 2014.

3. An exploration of how private prison profits impact people of color: "Higher Profits Explain Why There Are More People of Color in Private Prisons," Joshua Holland, Bill Moyers and Company, 7 February 2014.

4. Information on how the private prison industry lobbies for harsh penalties and longer sentences: "Private Prison Companies Want You Locked Up," Press Release, Justice Policy Institute, 22 June 2011.

 5. Reports on how contracts guaranteeing 80% to 100% occupancy affects profits and behavior of private prisons and the local and state governments that support them: "This is How Private Prison Companies Make Millions Even When Crime Rates Fall," by Andy Kroll, Mother Jones, 19 September 2013.
An editorial on the same, in the conservative Washington Times: "America's For-Profit Prisons: Greed over Justice," by Kevin J. Wells, 4 December 2013.

6. The ACLU's report "Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration," 2 November 2011.

7. A CNBC investigation: Billions Behind Bars: Inside America's Prison Industry

These are just a few sources that demonstrate the serious problems of privatizing the criminal justice system. If the information here doesn't completely convince those who are ideologically committed to privatization, perhaps it can at least promote caution, careful re-consideration, and more just outcomes in how we deal with incarceration.

1 comment:

  1. A thoughtful and comprehensive presentation of how the United States and Louisiana became the incarceration capitals of the world and what we're up against in changing that reality.