Some stories are more difficult to write than others. It isn’t because the words are hard to find, nor is it for lack of something to say. It’s more about recognizing that a post full of f-bombs might give some immediate emotion satisfaction, but it doesn’t solve the problems that come with bad policies. For Profit Prisons is one of those stories.
States that opted for turning prisons over to for profit corporations sold the idea by claiming it saves money.
Across the country, states have struggled to maintain prison systems that are over capacity and over budget because of the large influx of inmates. In light of the May 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Plata ordering California to alleviate its overcrowded prisons, more states began to seek solutions to reduce costs and prison populations. Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910, 179 L. Ed. 2d 969 (2011). Private prison operators are often touted as savings magnets—playing into the conservative belief that private industry can operate more efficiently and eliminate wasteful bureaucracy that often characterizes government.
Of course, advocates of for profit prisons didn’t want to discuss the terms under which their campaigns accepted donations from the for profit prison lobby. Since profit is a business’s first priority, it stands to reason that would be a priority in the for profit prison industry. So it comes as no surprise that in exchange for campaign donations, the for profit prison industry has lobbied for “prison packing.” Moreover, high occupancy and in some cases, full occupancy is a term in contracts between the corporations and the states that paid for their “services.”
The report by the advocacy group “In the Public Interest” showed private prison companies mandate high inmate occupancy rates through their contracts with states – in some cases, up to 100 percent.
States passed 3 strikes and your out and other laws in the name of “getting tough on crime.” However, they have the added bonus of helping states fulfill the occupancy quotas they contracted with the for profit prison industry.
Of course, it helps if there are judges willing to hand down sentences to achieve these quotas – for a personal profit of course.
It gets worse, as some judges sell children and adults to the for profit prison system. Just try googling “judge sells children to prison system” and you’ll see a volume of stories on this new reality. A disproportionate number of imprisoned children are black or Hispanic as reflected in the graphic below.
Graphic from Travis Smiley Reports
A former Pennsylvania judge accepted $2 million in bribes from a for profit prison contractor to send black children to prison and while he’s at it, make sure the for profit prison’s are full. In one case, this judge sentenced an African American child to prison for three months because she posted negative comments about her assistant principle on myspace. Serving a 28 year sentence on rackateering charges, this former judge is part of that high occupancy rate the for profit prisons paid him to fill.
The conditions in for profit prisons reach a whole new level of barbarity. Assaults on guards by inmates occurred 49% more frequently in private prisons. They are also less secure. A study by Scott D. Camp and Gerald G. Gaes revealed a higher frequency of escapes, in prison homocides, prisoner on prisoner assults and drug abuse in for profit prisons. Then there’s the prisoner abuse.
Corrections Corporation of America is the biggest for profit prison company in the United States . Earlier this year, Think Progress reported that the corporation settled a suit alleging prisoner abuse during a prison riot for $600k.
According to an FBI agent, the riot stemmed from complaints about indadequate food and medical care.
In Idaho, CCA officals partnered with violent prison gangs in the name of saving money on prison security.
Ironically, states turned to for profit prisons a means to address the problem of overcrowded prisons. Yet, CCA engaged in overcrowding it’s prisons in Ohio, once again in the name of saving money.
The latest lawsuit against this company was brought by 74-year-old Carol Lester, serving time in a New Mexico Correctional Facility. Lester alleges the CCA owned facility deprived her of medicine and kept her in solitary confinement for over a month.
Lester entered the prison following conviction for an embezzlement charge. Lester is a thyroid cancer survivor and was prescribed medication to treat the ailment before she was imprisoned. It should be noted, that Lester bought the medicine she was prescribed and submitted it to the drug intake person at the prison. However, the prison denied her that medicine, substituting an alternative that made her ill.
During the initial medical screening, Lester was also found to be bi-polar and more importantly for what happened next, she had no history of illegal drug use.
The prison “sentenced” Lester to 30 days of solitary confinement based on a “false positive” for traces of methamphetamine.
It turns out this resulted from Zantac, prescribed to treat Lester’s bi-polar condition.
But hey, CCA continues to prosper. According to Mother Jones, it’s revenue grew 500 % over the past twenty years .
Image: Business-Managed Democracy