Ever get the feeling that you’re being had by all the “law and order” politicians who keep screaming that we have to get tough on criminals (cough, Rick Perry, Ric Scott, JD Alexander)? Even though the US incarcerates more people than any other country on earth.
Well, you are being had, and the con is simple. Prisons, which are increasingly run by private corporations, are big business. The more people we send to jail, the more money those corporations make (with your tax dollars), and the more money they donate to the law and order politicians. Simple.
To give you an idea of how bad this has gotten, a judge in Pennsylvania was recently convicted and sentenced to 28 years in prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of juvenile detention centers in exchange for sending thousands of kids (as young as ten years old and guilty only of petty mischief) to the detention centers. As part of this “kids for cash” scandal, 4,000 juvenile convictions were tossed out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
But you also have to wonder why we are privatizing our prisons at all. Politicians (who are often getting hefty campaign donations from the private prison companies) tell us that it saves money. Well, that’s a bald-faced lie as well.
In Florida, Sheriff Michael Page decided that the county should take over the local jail, which has been run by Corrections Corporation of America for 22 years. At the time the jail was “de-privatized” the county projected that it would save $200,000, but it turned out much better than they expected and saved the taxpayers more than a million dollars this year alone.
Corporations were designed to make money, and they are very good at that. But when you mix profit and public interest, the money they make can end up coming out of your pocket, and ruining the lives of even young children. It makes me sick.