Posted by Michelle Moquin on March 6th, 2014
Over a week ago I spoke about the safety, or lack thereof in prisons, for women. Now, I discovered this recent write on the growth of private prisons. States are guaranteeing private prison building corporations that if they build a prison in their states, they will arrest and convict enough people to meet a minimum requirement.
Ok…this is really sick. And what does it say that the emphasis of that state’s justice will be to put you in jail whether guilty or not, rather than convict you for a crime you did convict?
It’s been a long time since I blogged anything about Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Here’s the write From Think Progress:
Promising to keep private prison cells full will be illegal in Nebraska if a proposal from state Sen. Amanda McGill (D) becomes law.
McGill, who is running for higher state office this year, has introduced legislation banning the government from guaranteeing payment to private contractors regardless of the level of service the contractor provide. While that may sound so obvious as to be unnecessary, states often make those kinds of promises to corporations when they privatize public services.
The most notorious examples are private prison contracts that guarantee companies like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) a certain minimum occupancy level at prisons, and promise to pay CCA the difference should prison populations sag below that level. Such “lock-up quotas” appear in two-thirds of all prison privatization contracts, according to a report last fall by the anti-privatization group In The Public Interest (ITPI).
McGill’s legislation would ban those kinds of payment guarantees across all state contracts, but is specifically targeted at prison contracts. The bill also would amend the state’s corrections contracting law in a variety of ways to both protect taxpayers and regulate prison companies more tightly.
While attempts to improve prison contracts won’t stop America from being the world’s leading jailer on their own, reforms like the one McGill proposes would help change the incentives that lawmakers and law enforcement officials face. Contracts that force public payments for empty cells give elected officials reason to keep prisons as full as possible, which means criminalizing as many behaviors as possible. The largest driver of America’s incarceration epidemic is the futile, decades-old War on Drugs, but backroom deals with prison companies compound the country’s larger problem.
If laws like McGill’s were to take root across the country, the prison industry would lose one of its biggest arguments in favor of investing in companies like CCA.
Skyrocketing profits aside, the prison industry saw some setbacks last year. In a single month last fall, CCA lost contracts in Idaho, Texas, and Mississippi. The Idaho prison that closed was so violent and brutal that it was nicknamed “Gladiator School,” and CCA juiced its profits there by understaffing the facility, effectively outsourcing prison security to gangs of prisoners.
America spends 2.5 times as much per prisoner as it does per public school student. The country’s incarceration levels help drive economic inequality, and the combination of criminalization and neglect creates a “cradle-to-prison pipeline” for black and latino Americans.
Readers: The last paragraph of the write is shocking isn’t it? Yes, but not surprising. And…OTWs are the ones that have to live with the sick Just-us justice system.
I decided to click over and read more and this is what I found:
States spend on average two and half times more per prisoner than they spend per public school student, this at a time when a majority of children of all racial and income backgrounds cannot read or compute at grade level in fourth- or eighth-grade and huge numbers of youth drop out of schools. The privatization of juvenile and adult prisons is yet another added danger. The world’s largest for-profit, private prison corporation, the Corrections Corporation of America, recently offered to run the prison systems in 48 states for 20 years if the states would guarantee a 90 percent occupancy rate.
And still more:
The rate of incarceration in the United States has spiraled out of control—with nearly 2.3 million people in prison or jail, the rate is now about 240 percent higher than it was in 1980, and 60 per- cent of this population is comprised of nonviolent offenders. Another 4.8 million individuals are on probation or parole, also mostly for nonviolent offenses. This tragic scenario generates a much larger inmate population than that of the 27 nations of the European Union combined and means we, alone, incarcerate nearly a quarter of the prisoners in the entire world. And while cash-strapped states are shutting down institutions that provide important public services such as hospitals and universities, prison expansion is eating up higher percentages of state budgets.
It does not need to be this way. Continued prison expansion has not been a response to an increase in actual crime. In fact, research shows that if incarcera- tion rates tracked violent crime rates, the incarceration rate would have peaked in 1992 and then by 2008 would have fallen back to about the same level it was in 1980. And while it is true that many states have seen decreases in their prison populations, there has still been a rise in the number of immigrant detention facilities, in addition to private prisons, county jails, and gender-specific facilities. The current criminal justice system not only wastes important state dollars that could be spent on vital services, but it also fails to keep the public safe because the system emphasizes punishment rather than rehabilitation.
What’s more, racial disparities in the current criminal justice system are outrageous, leading to a system of racial disenfranchisement and inequality that some argue we have not seen since slavery or its aftermath of codified segregation, Jim Crow. African Americans account for roughly 40 percent of the nation’s inmate population (while comprising only 13 percent of the total population) and Latinos account for slightly less, representing 21 percent of inmates (while being only 16 percent of the popula- tion). Even after offenders are released, they still face a lifetime of exclusion—often insurmountable job discrimination and disqualification from any public benefits that would help them get back on their feet as productive citizens such as food stamps, public housing, and even student loans.
The rampant and disproportionate imprisonment of people of color is a national tragedy.
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