Saturday, November 14, 2015

On the business of private prisons

Since 1980, the state of California built one university compared to 22 prisons. These prisons are filled with a majority of African Americans and Latinos. The conversation surrounding the privatization of prisons is closely linked to profiteering off the effects of policies such as immigration and drug abuse. An article by the Los Angeles Times discusses Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for an increase of 1oo million toward private prisons.

There are more American Citizens in prison today than in any country in the world. With the demographics of those incarcerated being largely people of color. Although Latinos make up 16 percent of the total population in the United States, they make up just under half of the population in prison.

To be transparent, the rise of Latinos incarcerated is not because they are committing more crimes. The rise has to do with what drives our world: Money. The private prison industry is making a great deal of profit by incarcerating innocent immigrants who left their country for a better future. And money aside, the fact that we are incarcerating people for trying to provide for their family is just morally impermissible. Liberty is embedded in the values for which the country was founded. Something has to be done.

Private prisons were officially introduced in the late eighties when the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was awarded a contract to take over a facility in Hamilton County, Tennessee.  This constituted the first jail operated in full by a private company. It served as a good service model at the beginning which made the CCA very popular in the state ending in them trying to serve the whole state for a contract of 200 million dollars, and with that the rest is history.

Currently the US issues contracts to the CCA to jail more than 23,000 people in this country for a pretty big amount of money, 5 billion dollars. To put that in perspective, that is 25 times more in only no more than 3 decades. You may wonder, how did that happen? Active participation of the private prison industry during election times as well as lobbying. According to the Washington Post, this industry has spent more than 25 million dollars to court legislator to pass laws that benefit the cause. That cause seeks to impose larger stays in prison and harder punishment to potential “costumers” including immigrants with the end result on bigger contracts leading to corporate executives creating and maximizing the greatest amount of profit.

Michael Cohen, a journalist for Washington Post writes:

On its website, CCA states that the company doesn’t lobby on policies that affect “the basis for or duration of an individual’s incarceration or detention.” Still, several reports have documented instances when private-prison companies have indirectly supported policies that put more Americans and immigrants behind bars – such as California’s three-strikes rule and Arizona’s highly controversial anti-illegal immigration law – by donating to politicians who support them, attending meetings with officials who back them, and lobbying for funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Clearly it is a good market model (and highly immoral). Immigrants serve as the product, tax payers pick up the bill, and private prison industries rack up the profits.

It is tragic the way our current system operates. Just a couple of weeks ago I heard Gov. Sanders speaking about ending the statutory detention quotas. For those who don’t know what this quota means, it simply states that the quota requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold an average of 34,000 individuals in detention on a daily basis. Consequently, it is to expect that a great deal of individuals are incarcerated for immigration reasons which increases the profit for this industry.

On the contrary, the nation’s population of illegal immigrants has dropped over the last few years, so officials are forced to fill the spaces in order to meet quotas. Along with all the policies that lobbyist pushed it creates a balance for people to stay longer and keep meeting the quota for financial purposes.

Thus, officials have turned their interest from looking to apprehend individuals who pose a threat to public safety to low profile undocumented families in order to meet quotas more efficiently. It makes sense why Latinos are leading the chart, the odds of finding a Latino without proper documentation of citizenship is much greater than any other race and it serves as a sufficient reason to put people behind bars.

Private prisons are poisonous, degrading and hurtful to society. It is wrong, immoral and it needs to end. Thus, we should reevaluate the way we spend money in incarceration by using private prisons. Instead, we should channel those efforts into the main roots of the issue. By investing time and money on education in minorities the solution could seem less far fetched.

No comments:

Post a Comment