A new report from Grassroots Leadership reveals details about the growing trend of states shipping inmates to private, for-profit prisons in other states. The questionable policy not only costs states millions of dollars, it also undermines the rehabilitation of prisoners and helps line the pockets of an industry that seems to have little regard for the human costs of its drive to increase profits. At its recent national convention, the AFL-CIO recognized many of the problems with the private prison industry and passed a resolution supporting legislation to end prison privatization.
The report shows that four states currently engage in the practice of shipping prisoners out of state to private prisons—California, Hawaii, Idaho and Vermont. West Virginia is currently considering joining them. More than 10,000 prisoners are incarcerated in states other than where they were convicted of crimes. They are held anywhere from 450 miles to 3,000 miles from their home states.
The report's author, Holly Kirby, notes the primary problem with the practice:
Interstate transfer of prisoners, or the practice of transferring incarcerated people to out-of-state prisons, is detrimental criminal justice policy that hurts families. The practice impedes prisoner rehabilitation by diminishing prisoners’ ties to family and community, compromising rather than enhancing the public good.
Kirby also notes that there are few laws dealing with the practice and much of the process is done without public scrutiny or accountability for the private companies running the prisons. The report concludes that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on the outsourcing of prisoners and that more cost-effective measures are available, but unused.
The practice becomes even more questionable when you take into account the over-representation of African Americans and Latinos in the American prison system. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently commented on the problem:
The first time I toured a prison, the most striking thing I saw—and I already knew the statistics, but it’s a whole different thing to see with your own eyes—was how absolutely packed our prisons are with young black and brown men. We’re not locking up individuals as much as a demographic.
Read the full report.