Federal and state governments have and still are strapped for cash. The cry the past thirty years has been PRIVATIZE! Farm out certain services to the private sector. Supposedly the job will be done better and cheaper.
The package sold with regard to prisons. Privatized prisons came into being.
A private prison is defined as a facility/place in which individuals are physically confined or incarcerated by a third party that is contracted by a government agency.
How did private prisons come about?
Start first with the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Amendment that freed the slaves. Contrary to popular belief, the Thirteenth Amendment did not free all persons from slavery.
The pertinent section of the Thirteenth Amendment is as follows. “1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (emphasis added) The emphasized portion is referred to as the Punishment Clause.
Businessmen and plantation owners knew at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation that all men free was around the corner. Who was going to work the factories and fields cheaply? Such persons were instrumental in having the punishment clause included in the free the slaves amendment.
Slavery therefore is still legal as punishment for a crime.
The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified at the end of the Civil War. Beginning in 1868, convict leases were issued to private parties to supplement their work forces. The convicts were referred to as a chain gang. Chain gangs remained in place in decreasing numbers into the early 1950s.
The 1980s brought with it congested prisons. New jails and increased staff were required to support the war on drugs.
Private prisons have grown and multiplied since that time. With little oversight/scrutiny by any government. The federal and state frame of mind was we are paying you to take this headache off our hands…..do it and do not bother us.
The first modern private prison company was the Correction Corp. of America for Hamilton County, Tennessee. Within a few years, the State of Tennessee turned all its jails over to Corrections Corp. of America to operate.
Corrections Corp. of America is the largest or one of the largest such companies in the United States. Within two decades, the Correction Corp. increased its profits by 500 percent. In 2011, it took in $5 billion in revenue.
Wall Street became aware in 2009 of the profitability of private prisons. Millions of dollars were invested and continue to be invested. Wells Fargo alone has $106 million invested in two jail companies.
Today, 20 percent of federal prisoners and 7 percent of state prisoners are confined in private prisons.
Private jail companies are no different than any other major corporation. With the big dollars, comes big lobbying with Congress and in state capitals. Also national and regional meetings in exotic locations where legislators and other influential government persons are entertained.
Four types of legislation sought to be influenced on a consistent basis include longer sentencing bills, later parole legislation, three strikes and you’re out which leads to lifetime incarceration, and the lengthening of infraction sentences. While today’s mood is to decriminalize and lower/eliminate prison confinement, the jail companies are working in the other direction. With success.
Private prisons on the surface appear to be cost effective for cash strapped states. The private industry sold the states a bill of goods. We can do it better and cheaper.
Their track record stinks.
Poor training of personnel has led to violence and escapes. Food not the best nor the most recent. Proper medical care lacking. Female prisoners raped. Paroles granted later than the normal time. Prisoners charged for their upkeep. Failure to pay results in time being added on to a sentence.
Private prisons are increasingly being used as immigration detention centers.
Private prisons are selective as to which prisoners they will take. They are not interested in high coast inmates. The disabled, elderly and HIV-positive for example. The private prison companies only want the healthiest and youngest prisoners.
State and county governments are not happy with private prisons after having lived with them for several years. Private prison companies require the governmental agency to guarantee a certain number of occupied beds. If at any given time the occupancy rate falls below the contracted number, the private prison company charges for the empty beds. With crime down and fewer persons being sentenced to jail, such is putting a strain on state and county monies.
There is another problem. Brings back into play the slavery issue.
Private jail prisoners work like employees in a factory. Except they either do not get paid or get pennies in effect. The prison companies have contracted with outside corporations to produce certain goods. They cannot meet required deliveries. The reason again less crime and fewer people going to jail.
Certain private prisoner companies make uniforms for popular restaurants like McDonald’s and Applebee’s.
As a result, private prison companies are threatening to sue states and other governmental agencies for lost profits. Another way of saying they will sue unless they get more inmates. To be used as free labor.
An interesting observation. The Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment were to have freed the slaves. Blacks were the slaves at the time. Today, there are more blacks in jail. Blacks still persecuted. Blacks still not free. Blacks slaves of the Thirteenth Amendment which was adopted to free them.
Finally, corruption. On a scale guaranteed to astound you.
Mark Ciavarella, Jr. was a Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Judge. He recently was sentenced to 28 years in jail.
From 2003 to 2008, he took close to $1 million in bribes from a private prison company to send 4,000 children to juvenile detention centers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw the convictions out. However such did little good as a practical matter. The 4,000 had already served time in situations where they normally would not have. Like talking back to a teacher.
Another Lucerne County Judge, Michael Conahan, was also sentenced to a lesser term for basically the same crimes.
Ciavarella is referred to in Luzerne County as the “Kids for Cash Judge.”
Whether judges or government officials, bribery corruption as committed by the two judges has to be merely the tip of the iceberg.
My advice to all. Do not be in a hurry to privatize anything. Tell your elected officials so. Whether private prisons, Social Security, pension funds, or what have you. Man has a darker side. It occasionally surfaces where big dollars are involved.