DOJ To Allow Private Prison Contracts To Expire After Scathing Findings Released
August 19, 2016

The private prison industry, by profiting off a socially skewed-criminal justice system, has been a real thorn in the side of many of us who actually think and vote with some empathy. Prisons by nature are prone to fostering abuse, misconduct and neglect. When you add the for-profit factor without the 'job-crushing regulations,' you have a frightening potential for horror stories, for people likely disadvantaged from the start.

Democrats often complained loudly during those midterm election years that President Obama isn't doing enough to help those most in need. Too bad, in 2010 when so many people were so disappointed that the Democratic President didn't move Heaven and Earth during those 24 total days where Congress was actually filibuster-proof Democratic.

Here we get to private prisons and the slippery slope they have provided in our country. Just a brief history: Private Prisons became a booming business in the mid 1980's in direct response to a massive influx of prisoners due to the 'War on Drugs.' Simply put, we didn't have enough space for all the low level drug offenders. Hence, for-profit prisons.

The first major company to start accepting inmates was Corrections Corporation of America, which took over a facility in Tennessee. This was not well received by the public. In the decades that followed, the growth for this industry has exploded.

The DOJ reports that as of 2013, nearly 20% of all Federal inmates were being housed in private prisons. That is a staggering number. And CCA isn't complaining. Matt Taibbi reported in that in 2011 alone, the private prison industry took in over $5 billion dollars.

Unfortunately, greed has taken over and the prisoners are not the focus of for-profit prisons as a whole. They are seen as commodities, merely faceless numbers with price tags attached their backs. The longer they stay incarcerated,the more money the prison make. The less services provided to them, the more money the prison keeps. Staff doesn't need to be trained well, they don't need medical or psychological treatment, food can be the most basic possible. At the end of the day,it is all about profit.

Mother Jones did an incredible multi-month long expose on the "For Profit" prison model and found the following:

By definition, incarceration is invisible to most people, and that's doubly true for private prisons. Record keeping is spotty, public disclosure is limited, visits are difficult. The only people who can describe what really goes on inside are prisoners, guards, and officials, all of whom have a strong interest in spinning the story. To get at the truth, we had to take time, and go deep.

They sent a reporter in to work as a corrections officer for 4 months to a for-profit prison in Louisiana. His findings were absolutely shocking, but not unexpected to someone like myself, who has studied criminal justice extensively. The DOJ released a report today that found the following serious violations, just to highlight a few:

  • Contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions.
  • Contract prisons confiscated eight times as many contraband cell phones annually on average as the BOP institutions.
  • Contract prisons also had higher rates of assaults, both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff.
  • Contract prisons improperly housing new inmates in Special Housing Units (SHU), which are normally used for disciplinary or administrative segregation.
  • Contract prisons had more lockdowns, more guilty findings on serious inmate discipline charges, and more grievances submitted by inmates in selected categories.
  • Contract prisons did not have the medical expertise to provide additional monitoring in health services beyond the observation steps and during our site visit to one contract prison, [they] learned there was no full-time physician, as required by its approved staffing plan, for the 8-month period between December 2013 and August 2014.
  • Based on the findings in this DOJ report, they have chosen to stop contracting with For-Profit Prisons when their contracts expire. In the end, this is better for prisoners overall. They will receive better healthcare, live in safer facilities and have access to education, vocational training and aftercare programs than they would get at a private prison.

    Oh, and in response to this announcement, stock prices in two major for-profit prison companies have plummeted.


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