Private prison industry profits from mass incarceration

A recent study released by The Sentencing Project analyzes the rapid growth of the private prison industry in the United States between 1999 and 2010.  Privatization is intended to create greater economic efficiency, but there is little evidence that this goal has been achieved:

Private prisons supporters assert that the private sector saves resources through greater efficiencies. These claims are supported by some reports showing that private prisons produce cost savings, largely through lower salaries and benefits by employing mostly nonunion employees. It is also argued that governments can benefit in the short term through the direct sale of correctional facilities to private companies and can save money when constructing new facilities through public-private initiatives, rather than solely through government funding. However, studies have shown these benefits to be mostly illusory.

The economic benefits have not materialized, but according to a November report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) there are very real costs:

While evidence is mixed, certain empirical studies show a heightened level of violence against prisoners in private institutions. This may reflect in part the higher rate of staff turnover in private prisons, which can result in inexperienced guards walking the tiers. After an infamous escape from an Arizona private prison in 2010, for example, the Arizona Department of Corrections reported that at the prison, "[s]taff are fairly 'green' across all shifts," "are not proficient with weapons," and habitually ignore sounding alarms. Private facilities have also been linked to atrocious conditions. In a juvenile facility in Texas, for example, auditors reported, "[c]ells were filthy, smelled of feces and urine."

According to The Sentencing Project, there is a great political risk involved with prison privatization:

Private prison companies’ dependence on ensuring a large prison population to maintain profits provides inappropriate incentives to lobby government officials for policies that will place more people in prison. This is evidenced by the creation and coordination of model legislation through conservative lobbying groups, as well as in the political contributions and lobbying efforts of individual companies. This effort to increase reliance on incarceration comes at a time where America’s rate of imprisonment is the highest in the world and when the prison population is far beyond the point of diminishing returns in terms of public safety.

In a 2005 article in the Duke Law Journal, Sharon Dolovich, Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles, foreshadows the grave political dangers in more detail:

The private prison industry, to increase the demand for its services, exerts whatever pressure it can to encourage state legislators to privatize state prisons. This effort does not necessarily suggest a parsimony concern, for the fact of privatization alone need not affect the number of individuals who are actually incarcerated or the length of prison sentences. But what if the private prison industry were exerting political pressure on state legislators not only to encourage a shift to privatization, but also to generate harsher sentencing regimes? This would create the possibility that the state's sentencing policies, and thus the sentences imposed pursuant to them, are inconsistent with the priority of the most urgent interests and instead serve the financial interests of the private prison industry and the politicians who accept campaign contributions from industry members. By creating an industry capable of, and with an interest in, corrupting the legislative conditions for legitimate punishment, the state's use of private prisons would be directly at odds with the demands of the parsimony principle.

The ACLU report echoes these concerns:

Tactics employed by some private prison companies, or individuals associated with the private prison industry, to gain influence or acquire more contracts or inmates include: use of questionable financial incentives; benefiting from the "revolving door" between public and private corrections; extensive lobbying; lavish campaign contributions; and efforts to control information.

Unfortunately, this is just one example (another is the National Defense Authorization Act) of corporate concerns trumping the Constitution in Congress.

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"We live in a free country where all that is not forbidden is allowed. " -- Cato Institute.

"Libertarians" are right-wing anti-gov't extremists who make claims that are not only not in the Constitution but also contrary to it. If you want an argument against responsibility, you'll get nothing but that from "Libertarians".

The Cato Institute is a "Libertarian" organization. And the above claim is false. "Libertarians" are notirious for isolating snippets of the Constitution from all the rest of it and basing entire arguments on those snippets.

By contrast, the entire Constitution is in effect at the same time, including the parts "Libertarians" exclude as if they didn't exist. Our system of laws is based upon a BALANCING of interests, not the scarcity model of rights asserted by such as "Libertarians". It is not, EITHER I have rights OR YOU have rights. And it is not, I have rights, therefore YOU have responsibilities.

Every right is inextricably entwined with responsibility -- which is a refutation of the above false assertion. Everyone has the same rights -- including the right to not have his rights infringed. That means everyone also has the RESPONSIBILITY to NOT infringe the rights of others. Every effort to decouple rights and responsibilities -- which is the "Libertarian" agenda -- is the core of every corruption. It is an assertion of the Orwellian principle that some are more equal than others.

Ron and Rand Paul are "Libertarians," and Rand Paul asserted the "Libertarian" principle that civil rights laws -- as a beginning -- should not apply to private entities. That, in short, private entites shjuld be exempt from regulation of any kind. That is not the position of the Founders; in fact, it is contrary to their view. As example, laws restricting the actions of taverns have a consistent and unbroken history that goes all the way back to the foundings of the several colonies -- without any iturreuption of them before, during, or after the "revolution". One dsimply does not have the right to tell the world to "f off," while hiding behind the eupehmism for lawlessness "free market".

It shouldn't surprise that the loudest proclamations about what the Constitution is and isn't is from the far-right anti-gov't faction. Let's be clear:

1. The Founders declared independence from BRITAIN. They did not declare independence from themselves, or from the colony/state gov'ts.

2. The Founders attacked and or overthrew exactly this many gov'ts:


They didn't attack or overthrow the British gov't, which was located in London.

They didn't attack or overthrow the colony/state gov'ts becuse those gov'ts were controlled by the Founders.

3. We call the Founders FOUNDERS because they FOUNDED gov'ts. And they FOUNDED gov'ts becsue they were PRO-gov't.

Gov'ts are systems of laws; and the "Libertarian" view is easily seen for what it is: an anti-gov't rejection of the rule of law ideology which believes not in the perfectability of man, but that man is already perfect, therefore doesn't need law. (Those who are victimized by predators are lectured about "caveat emptor" -- how being victimized is solely the responsibility of the victim.)

It is a political ideology which not merely refuses to recognize that politics and law are not the same thing, but outright rejects the rule of law, and offers rationalizations for doing so that the Founders -- with whom they claim to be aligned -- themselves characterized as criminal.

Whatever happened to the understanding that extreme means extreme, and that it is impossible for the extreme to be "centrist" or "mainstream" regardless how or how often it claims to be those?