Private prisons are jails or detention centers where individuals are confined by a third party that has been contracted by local, state or federal government agencies. Unethical, baseless and hypocritical justifications that threaten the legitimacy of our criminal justice system allow private “security firms” to incarcerate prisoners from the state and house them on a per diem or monthly rate.
First and foremost, the incarceration of human beings for profit is unethical. The intention of our prison system is to remove dangerous people from society and rehabilitate them so they can return to society. The object of any corporation is to maximize their profits and to accomplish this by securing that a large prison population exists. If private prisons successfully rehabilitated large numbers of prisoners, their supply of “customers” would diminish, resulting in decreased profits. Thus, the purpose of our prison system lies contradictory to that of the private system, establishing an unjust conflict of interest.
Private prison “security firms” have dedicated vast resources to lobbying and influencing state and federal legislative bodies to enact legislation that is “tough on crime.” The enactment of “tough on crime” legislation and the increased levels of punishments allow private prisons to increase their supply of prisoners, which consequently increases their profits. Thus, the profit-generating purpose of these companies allows for the manipulation of the legal system because companies profit from, and advocate for, unnecessarily severe laws and unethical sentencing.
Proponents of the privatization of prisons argue that profits encourage efficiency, cut costs and allocate state resources more effectively than public prisons. Yet this argument is contracted by the 2001 study “Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons” from the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. National Council on Crime and Delinquency that stipulated “there [is] no data to support the contention that privately operated facilities offer cost savings over publicly managed facilities.” Further, a 2009 study confirmed the Bureau’s conclusion and found that it costs private prisons $35.39 per day to house one prisoner, compared to $34.90 for the public prison. Such data undercuts the central premise utilized by advocates for private prisons and dismisses their claim.
An industry-wide survey conducted by George Washington University Professor James Austin has also suggested that 49 percent more inmates-on-staff assaults and 65 percent more inmates-on-inmate assaults occurred in private prisons than in public prisons; both violence levels among inmates and assaults on private prison guards are considerably higher in private prisons. Therefore, the use of private prisons has shown to be detrimental to the security of both the prison inmates and society as a whole due to the possibility of inmates escaping.
The criminal justice system is broken, and until we take action to abolish private prisons, it will continue to either stay the same or problematically increase. Keep yourself informed of the need to restore justice to our criminal system and like our page on Facebook called “Profiting from Punishment: Why We Must Abolish Private Prisons.” Read the articles posted and help us end an injustice!
Brian Cadigan is a fourth-year history and political science major.