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Making Private Prisons Great Again

Private, for-profit prisons have failed. They cost taxpayers more than public prisons, are less safe for prisoners (the one private prison in Idaho has 4 times the number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults than the seven public prisons in the state combined), have had repeated scandals (including one where judges were bribed by the prisons in exchange for harsher sentences on juveniles in order to increase the need for more prisons), and spend tons of money lobbying state and local governments to pass harsher sentences (like three strikes) and criminalizing more things.

The fundamental problem is that as a for-profit corporation, private prisons have to be profitable. There is double the incentive to not rehabilitate prisoners because the cost of rehabilitation programs reduce current profits, and a rehabilitated former prisoner is no longer a source of future profits. You end up with a system that is rewarded if they produce more criminals!

The Obama administration was trying to phase out private prisons, but it should come as no surprise that the Trump administration has just reversed that. In addition, “the use of private prisons is expected to surge under President Trump’s promised crackdown on illegal immigration.”

Just in case there was any doubt about the racist intent of this, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that the Justice Department (under racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions) will step up enforcement of federal marijuana laws, even in states that have legalized recreational use. Over half the inmates in federal prisons are there for drug offenses, with the majority of those for marijuana. And minorities (especially blacks) are many times more likely to be arrested for marijuana use than whites.

Also published on Medium.



  1. HTTP:404 wrote:

    So many of these same problems plague many other areas where the private sector has been heralded as the magic solution.

    Military contracting – check
    Healthcare – check
    Education – check

    What these experiences do show us is that these schemes are extremely efficient at achieving their unstated objectives. Creating highly profitable businesses. Which would be fine if they achieved their stated objectives.

    The upshot is that privatization schemes do not work as publicly advertised, unless they come with a healthy dose of independent regulation and oversight. And if the required level of oversight renders them less competitive … I think we have an answer.

    Friday, February 24, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    I’m shock, just shocked that Sessions is promoting this. What is his kick back? Be sure that SPLC is going to be tracking this.

    Friday, February 24, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  3. Ralph wrote:

    While they should be addressing the growing opiate addition epidemic, which kills thousands annually across all demographics and often begins in physicians offices, comrade Agent Orange wants to shift the focus back on marijuana which last year alone has killed approximately, uh, zero. More pandering to the base and moneyed interests. After all, the War on Drugs is a multi-billion dollar institution, including the private prison industry. If they really were serious about addressing drug abuse, they’d commit as much or more to rehabilitation as incarceration.

    A War on Drugs? Cruel joke, wars end. Well, maybe not in Afghanistan.

    But there’s a reason the war on drugs never ends and it turns out it’s not really much about the drugs at all. Historically, it’s about the kinds of people who are perceived using them by those in power. In other words, it’s more about race and subjugation. After all, the original recipe for Coca Cola really did include The Real Thing. So while they worked hard to keep the recipe secret, it’s no secret now why it became so popular so quickly!

    Friday, February 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    marijuana: not zero unfortunately. The person who drove the wrong way and killed five teenagers in Vermont had only one drug in his system: marijuana

    Friday, February 24, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  5. Jonah wrote:

    The guys who did this deserves to go one of these private prisons and have someone drop a bar of soap in front of him. Trumps america!! USA USA

    Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 3:04 am | Permalink
  6. Ralph wrote:

    Ebdoug – I take your point, but I was referring to the direct cause of deaths by overdose. It’s literally drop-dead easy to accidentally overdose on opiates, especially with dealers now often spiking their wares with cheaper fentanyl, a synthetic opiate 10,000 times more potent than morphine, or even carfentanil, a large animal tranquilizer which is 100 more potent than fentanyl. You could fit a lethal dose of those drugs under your fingernail. OTOH, you could smoke some of the choicest Colorado weed all day long and about the worst you’d expect is falling asleep to a bad movie with an empty bag of Cheetos. But in no case would I recommend getting behind the wheel while under the influence of any mind altering drug.

    Fact is, DUI’s in this country and others overwhelmingly involve alcohol, estimated by the CDC to be responsible for about one-third of all traffic fatalities in the US.

    So unless you’re suggesting going back to the days of Prohibition (which worked out just great, eh?) I’m not sure what your point was with regard to the topic at hand.

    Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink
  7. Ralph wrote:

    Correction: after rechecking the numbers, I should have noted fentanyl ranked as being approx. 50-100 times more potent than morphine, while carfentanil is about 10,000 times more potent than morphine (i.e. ~100x more potent than fentanyl). So overstated the potency of fentanyl vs. morphine earlier, but my overall point remains.

    Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink