254News

News Beyond News

Why U.S. private prisons should be phased out

8 min read
Spread the post

I have always been a fan of villains in fictional stories. Perhaps this is because they have a higher possibility of surprising their audience than heroes. You see protagonists are often predictable in that they always want to save the day or the world or well, the day and the world. Antagonists, on the other hand, despite also having a single mind track that involves ultimate malignance, try to be diverse in their methods of executing evil. Take “the Joker” for example. He wanted to put a disturbing wide smile on people’s faces, literally. He was also after citizen’s unrest and corrupting the system, blurring good and evil panes every chance he got. Not good stuff and generally villainous territory but something different from other antagonists in their stories. I mean “Thanos” was the evil seed in the “End Game” plot and he had a malignant agenda that was completely different from “Joker’s”. The behemoth wanted to save the earth by ridding it of human population. His plan did surround an evil philosophy just like “Joker” but unlike “Batman’s” nemesis, “Thanos” had a different approach altogether. We also have antagonists like Nollywood’s Patience Ozwokwor, who simply sought to feed off the pain of her daughter in laws, sometimes sister in laws or well neighbors. Then we have strange villains with weird evil plans like “Hiram” from Riverdale.

“Hiram”, Veronica’s father, is a calculating man who is always looking for power and money in the most bizarre of places. In the series, Hiram is orchestrating a well elaborate ploy that will earn him an abysmal amount of profits. He wants to demolish a school so that he can build, no not an amusement park or a mall like a normal antagonist, Hiram wants to build a private prison. To say I was baffled by this fact is an understatement. I mean, how could one person or a corporation own a prison? Was this not solely government territory? For a moment I played with the idea that Hiram would be imprisoning his own enemies in that particular prison. The guy is, after all, known to be extremely petty. Still, that did not explain how he was to accrue profits. Turns out, for-profit prisons not only exist off screen but they also happen to fetch a lucrative amount of income! These corporations even have stocks in the market.

In 2018, according to the report presented by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 2 million adults were being held in jails and prisons. Now, of these 2 million adults, 128,063 convicts were held in state facilities owned by corporations.

A report revealed that in this year alone, nearly 2.3 million people in the U.S. have been incarcerated. Clearly these inmates are a lot and therefore the government has to find a way of housing them all. The need for an abode for prisoners has led to the government handing out contracts to corporations who in turn build private prisons that are solely run by them.
A recent tweet on the Twitter platform raised eyebrows. The tweet revealed that the prison stocks in the U.S market have heightened. This rise is directly linked with the confirmation of Attorney General Kamal Harris as Joe Biden’s VP. Private prison corporations seem to view Harris as “market friendly”. The surge in stock also came directly after Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for Joe Biden.

The truth is, private prisons have been earning luscious incomes over the years and even more during Trump’s administration. These for-profit prisons almost went out of business during the Obama reign when an initiative was started pertaining the phasing out of these corporations. But luck was on their side. In January 2017, President Trump took over the throne and his administration revoked the initiative becoming large supporters of private prisons.

You might be wondering, what is so bad about private prisons? Aren’t they helping the government house an influx of prisoners every day? And how do these corporations even make profits?

First, let us see the difference between private prisons and public prisons.

Distinguishing between privately owned and publicly owned prisons
Public prisons are responsible for building prisons, providing an administration, security and staff in these prisons, overseeing of the prisoners and generally monitoring the day to day prison activities. They are a hands on, boots on the ground bunch and they do not earn any sort of income from running these prisons (except for the employees in these prisons). Public prisons are essentially non profit.

Private prisons do all of the above, unburdening the government such that the only responsibilities by the state include; provision of prisoners and overseeing of the private prisons. As a bonus, private prisons corporations save the government money.

The government roughly incurs a cost of $200 per prisoner everyday. By looping in for-profit prisons, the government saves $50 since the private prisons charge $150 a day for every inmate.

So how exactly do private prisons earn profits if they are charging less for a colossal of works? Remember they need capital to build a prison and on top of this they need a working capital to run the day to day activities in these prisons.

How for-profit prisons are actually making profits
Private prisons are in business to make profits, this is their main agenda. The $50 savings on each prisoner that the government gets when they accept bids from for-profit prisons ensures that these corporations stay in business.

Once they win these bids, the corporations head back to the drawing board so as to devise ways through which they can accrue profits from their investments. Their aim is to crunch numbers that maximize economies of scale so as to gain optimum profits. One way through which they can earn huge amounts of income is by publicly trading.
If a private prison can “mark up” a prisoner $50 a day that translates to the private prisons earning $50,000 per day in a prison that houses roughly 1000 convicts. Let’s not forget that there are 198,000 prisoners currently residing in these private prisons.

If they so happen to land another contract with the government to build a prison in a bordering state then they could theoretically earn $50,000 in just a single day from this other prison. This totals to a whopping $100,000 income, in a span of one day! Yes, I know, you want to earn a prison now.

Another advantage of private prisons going public is the exposure reception. Exposure will lead to expansion in that more people will be seeking to purchase shares in the corporations. This ultimately leads to profits. This is particularly necessary for these corporations because they are always seeking capital to up and run more prisons.

Private prisons also often go public so as to ensure they stay in business. These corporations rely heavily on people committing crimes and the longer the sentences, the more income they earn. Once these sentences are up, inmates take their leave which registers as a loss in the accounts of private prisons. In order to ensure that there is a stream of prisoners to replace the freed convicts, private prisons wind up lobbying.

Lobbying occurs when a class/group of people try to influence public officials. In this particular scenario, private prisons corporations butter up law enforcers so as to accrue profits. This has been a trend with judges giving harsher/longer sentences to accused parties. There has been a direct correlation between private prisons being established and the average length of sentences.

Private prisons also influence the justice system to put in place stringent laws that most people wind up breaking. All this leads to more convicts in their prisons, sentenced to do lengthy time which in turn earns them a lot of money.

Think of it this way, more prisoners translates to more money. Private prisons see inmates as commodities to be traded for bulkier pockets.

Why private prisons should be scrapped away and if it is even a possibility
Whilst the major goal of public prisons is to rehabilitate prisoners, private prisons aim to make profits. We have already seen a major reason as to why they should be phased out, let’s see what other negative effects private prisons exude.

In an event where there is a recession in profits geared by a huge drop in crime rates, private prisons will have to come up with ways of ensuring they stay afloat. This scenario would lead to the diminishing of life quality of prisoners as their amenities, such as cleaning services, are stripped away from them. This would result in a single prisoner being housed for $90 a day rather than $150. In the aim of getting profits, the private prisons will make the lives of inmates unbearable. This might even take place without the drop in crime rates, some private prisons do these inhumane acts so as to fatten their pockets just because they can.

In 2016, an investigation was launched to find out the living conditions in private prisons. The compiled report indicated that private prisons had a 28% higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults compared to public prisons. Then there is the issue of immigrants.

What is disturbing is that as the number of incarcerated individuals in for-profit prions grew, so did the number of immigrants detained in such facilities. According to a report compiled by the Sentencing Project, about 4,841 immigrants were detained in private facilitates in the year 2000. Sixteen years later, this number increased by 442% totaling to 26,249 immigrants.

These atrocious facts led the Obama’s administration to whip up an initiative that was meant to do away with private prisons. The first step involved the Homeland Security Advisory council reviewing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s use of private immigration detention facilities. Immediately after this review went public, stocks owned by private prisons giant corporations CoreCivic and GEO Group Inc. dropped by 9.4% and 6% respectively. And that was only the Obama’s administration’s first move. Unfortunately they did not get to execute other moves. This game of chess completely changed when a new king,k aka Donald Trump, joined the set.

After President Trump’s inauguration, Jeff Sessions revoked the phasing out of private prisons initiative by Obama’s administration. By April 2017, the Department Of Justice was accepting bids from for-profit prisons corporations. That same month, GEO Group Inc. won a contract of $110 million to build a new detention center. Just like that, private prisons were back in business and making more money than ever. Decadency was no factor whatsoever.

When Joe Biden became the Democratic Presidential candidate, a commitment was made to ending the use of private prisons by the government. This was after Biden faced a lot of pressure from liberals like Bernie Sanders who feel that for-profit detention facilities are tied to racial injustice and policies that simply lead to more incarceration.
Could this possibly be the era where private prisons get to go out of business? Let us not forget that the most powerful people in the world have a hand in running these U.S. private prisons. With the popular mantra of “scratch my back I scratch yours” which roughly translates to “I will keep you in business if you finance my campaigns”, I doubt these facilities are going anywhere.

Besides, just recently we saw Kamal Harris, the new VP, authorizing/permitting the filling of a series of dubious motions and briefs on behalf of state as it tries to wriggle out of its constitutional requirements to the inmates. Of course this was scowled upon by federal judges who rejected these court fillings claiming that they were void and unworthy. Still, we tend to wonder how long this will last especially now that Harris is a rising star in national Democratic politics.
Say, who is your favorite villain?


Spread the post

Email your news TIPS to info@254news.co.ke to get your article published.