Just Say No To Private Prisons

1198 words - 5 pages

Just Say No to Private Prisons

Here's a frightening scenario: Ghetto dwellers, who cannot find meaningful and high paid employment, commit crimes with increasing ferocity and frequency. Then, upon being arrested, tried and convicted, they are sent to prison where they suddenly are employed doing the very same tasks they could not pursue in the real world.

Prisons are a growth industry in America, some even becoming major manufacturers and suppliers of day labor. It's happening right now, right here in the U.S., all in the name of profit margins. Wackenhut, Inc. and U.S. Corrections Corporation, two very large private security firms, are coming soon to a town near you.

With the advent of New York's so-called "Rockefeller" sentencing laws, overcrowded and violence prone prisons have become quite a problem for the New York State's Corrections Department and others. Many states have followed suit, along with the Federal government, in requiring mandatory sentencing and issuing guidelines for judges in certain cases. This increased burden on the system has created an opportunity for private business to get in on the action. Some act as brokers between institutions for services, others purchase outright or build their own institutions. Many states are having a hard time building prisons fast enough to keep up with the overflow.

The demand for new facilities is greatest in California. The inmate population of California, in 1977, was 19,600. Today, that total is approximately 159,000 and growing. California currently has the dubious distinction of having the largest prison system in America. Despite having spent $5.2 billion on prison construction in the last decade, California still has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the country. The California Department of Corrections estimates the need to spend another $6.1 billion in the coming decade, just to keep up with current levels, creating a virtual feeding frenzy among those who are providers of prison related services and construction.

Meanwhile, the California legislature has not authorized a new prison construction bond since 1992. As a result of the "Three strikes" law, prisons continue to fill at record rates. Recognizing the potential business opportunities, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has announced its intentions to build three new prisons in California, purely on speculation. One CCA executive was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying: "If you build it in the right place, the prisoners will come." CCA is currently building a $100 million facility in the Mojave Desert, gambling that California will soon need the space and be willing to pay handsomely for it.

The $35 billion spent each year on corrections in this country has created a vast prison-industrial complex, with it's own set of bureaucratic, economic and political interests encouraging increased spending to keep it all afloat. Using fear and statistics, the major players have done quite...

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