A third party has entered the scene of the U.S. prison system: the private sector. A handful of for-profit Wall Street corporations are currently making millions of dollars from what some critics call dungeons for dollars. Such corporations claim they can build and run prisons more efficiently and cheaply than the government does, and offer their cells to needy governments at below-market prices. After an examination of history, cost-benefit analysis, alternative programs, economics, and ethics, it becomes apparent that this current trend of privatization of the American prison system is unjustifiable and undeniably harmful to society.
[...] The first case example of deficient private prison operation is with Esmor Correctional Services, Inc., a publicly traded company based in New York (91). Esmor's $54 million bid, which was a whole $20 million less than the next bid, acquired a contract for a 300-bed detention center for illegal immigrants in Elizabeth, NJ (Donziger 91). The company hired correctional staff with little or no expertise, served a substandard diet to the inmates, and shackled detainees in leg irons when they met their lawyers (Donziger 91). [...]
[...] The media is certainly another major entity in the push for harsher sentencing laws, for Bush's gubernatorial campaign would have been unsuccessful if it were not for his ads depicting a man violently abducting a woman - the woman is then later shown with a blanket over her dead body (Donziger 80). Exit polls revealed that his opponent lost the election partly because of these ads on crime (Donziger 80). Media - newspaper, radio, and television brings the civilian population news and entertainment, but often with a hidden message. [...]
[...] Today's reality is that anyone convicted three times of a misdemeanor crime such as petty theft will automatically serve time for a felony - whether the judge recommends it or not. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) has been moving towards privatization with its expanding immigrant prisoner population. This special inmate group has increased by 11,000 between 1996 and 2002 due to more stringent legislation such as “Illegal Immigration Reform”, “Immigration Responsibility and the “Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act.” Lastly, perhaps the most stress on the prison system stems from the on drugs,” a largely unsuccessful plan launched by President Reagan in the 1980's to tough” on drug users. [...]
[...] This follows the line of reasoning that private prisons make money by doing the bare minimum job or even by cutting corners. Just as any other for-profit business operates, private prisons inherently must make a profit - prison corporations undoubtedly do rake in hefty earnings too, for CCA profited $365 million during first three quarters of 1999 (Yeoman). In contrast, prisons run for public - rather than private - interest operate on a tight budget dictated by government policy, and are not expected to have monetary surpluses. [...]
[...] The 20th century saw the rise of the private prison industry, but the 21st century will undoubtedly see the end of this greedy and self-righteous system. Bothersome questions about private prisons are burning in the minds of government officials. The National Association of Criminal Justice Planners asks, “Does the government want to emphasize such a mercenary value as profit in its response to a social problem as opposed to values of fairness, equity, and personal accountability?” Furthermore, the American Civil Liberties Union expounds that one but the state should possess the awesome responsibility or power to take away an individual's freedom. [...]
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