The US is the most incarcerated nation in the world with 2.2 million serving time in prison for at least one year of their life. China, with four times the population and a reputation for draconian measures has 500,000 fewer prisoners. Why is this? Are we just bad? More criminal?
US Prison Population
In the 1980s longer sentences became the vogue-we were going to ‘get tough on crime,” blah,blah,blah. The prison population has tripled since 1980, the vast majority of these sentences are for drug-related and non-violent offenses. All this incarcerating is yet another mechanism for transferring wealth from taxpayers to corporations.
Governments do not run very efficient programs; granted. Privatizing government programs is supposed to be more efficient, reduce the size of government, be more “free market” and therefore good. Private prisons are more efficient if profit is the only goal. They ruthlessly cut costs, skimp on staff, limit rehab programs, and strive constantly and above all else-to keep the beds full, like a motel charging $18 a day. The profit margin is slim, gotta keep those beds full.
Send Us More Customers
Private prisons lobby for laws requiring longer sentences and negotiate for “easy” inmates to be transferred to their facility. Easy inmates are less trouble, more profitable, especially when you have hired low-paid, barely trained staff in order to keep profits up. No matter that the inmate is now far from family who might want to visit-gotta keep those beds full.
Private Juvenile Prison
I worked in a private prison for juveniles. It was a nightmare on many levels. If your kid is charged with a juvenile offense-go get a lawyer and keep them out of juvenile detention. Seriously. I quit when I was told to lengthen my boys’ sentences because too many were being released in a certain month and we might have the dreaded empty bed crisis. I asked my boss to repeat that, I couldn’t have heard that right. He repeated it. I quit and turned them in to the authorities, but I think nothing has changed there.
They PAR’d the kids (physical take-down) out of camera range so they could hurt them and not be charged with abuse. I was called to Dorm A one night for a disturbance since we were (always) short-staffed. When I got there a counselor was hustling a young man out of the big room (off camera) and I was left alone with raging, cussing, screaming boys, locked behind their bedroom doors. They were yelling to be let out because they had been locked in a long time and needed to use the bath room. These weren’t my boys, several were trying to break their doors down, and I couldn’t seem to calm them by talking. I told them the police were coming and to please quiet down. The ones breaking the doors down said, “F*** the police. I’ll kill the police,” just as three cops entered the big room.
Privatization Cost Taxpayers More
I returned to my dorm where my boys were sleeping like angels. I had no training to handle a Dorm full of angry young men (one staff should never be in that position) and the regular A staff had abandoned the Dorm, not intending to get hurt for an $8 an hour job. This is privatization, very efficient in cutting costs, totally committed to making a profit, actively lobbying for more prisoners and longer sentences. Taxpayers don’t save money, they lose money because what they save in daily rates, the corproation is sure to make up in volume.
This is just hideously and morally wrong. These are not widgets, this is not volume, these are human lives. I loved my boys but I could not help them. We need to get off the “tough on crime” kick , stop sending people to jail for drugs, and stop privatizing prisons. The goal is not profit, it is a rehabilitated human being. Private prisons are inhumane, ineffective, and in the long run, far more expensive.
Prison for Profit video