Congratulations to Florida for resisting the lure of privatizing its prisons yesterday.
Today, the Florida Senate averted disaster by voting down a proposal to create the largest private prison system in America. The plan would have turned over nearly 30 Florida correctional facilities to private, for-profit companies, which have would run the prisons under contract with the state. […]
The defeat of the privatization bill is a victory for Florida. As Julie Ebenstein, Policy & Advocacy Counsel at the ACLU of Florida, explained shortly after the billâ€™s defeat: â€œFloridaâ€™s prison system needs reform, but private prisons arenâ€™t reform â€“ they deform the process by linking corporate profit to incarceration. The bottom line is that private prisons make money by keeping people in prison when we should be looking for ways to keep them out in the first place.â€
The privatization of prisons is one of the more perverse developments to our criminal justice system in recent years. It makes no long term logical fiscal sense to taxpayers and it’s a disaster in terms of public policy, as it actually creates a fiscal incentive to private companies to lobby for more people to be locked up.
This disturbing article by Chris Kirkham makes it clear: Private Prison Corporation Offers Cash In Exchange For State Prisons
As state governments wrestle with massive budget shortfalls, a Wall Street giant is offering a solution: cash in exchange for state property. Prisons, to be exact.
Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for “challenging corrections budgets.” In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.
Did you catch that part? “a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full”
Now if that isn’t a perverse incentive. The state actually entering into an agreement that guarantees a certain prison population. And if prison population falls? Why, I guess they’ll just have to convict more people, sentence them for more years, or pass more criminal laws.
This puts the private prison industry and the states into a joint interest in maintaining prison populations. And that means certain things must be avoided, as Corrections Corporation has made clear…
“The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws,” the company’s most recent annual filing noted. “For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”
Drug legalization is bad for the business of incarceration.