A recent report dismantles claims by private prison industry and its backers—including the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—that private prisons are a better deal than publicly run facilities.
“Prison Bed Profiteers: How Corporations Are Reshaping Criminal Justice in the U.S.,” from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), demonstrates that many common claims of private prison companies have been repeatedly disproven and the private model often survives off low-paid, poorly trained staff, which can lead to compromised levels of safety for staff and inmates, as well as the general public.
The report also explores the influence private prison companies exert over criminal justice policymaking and the industry’s overall lack of transparency. Two of ALEC’s major sponsors are Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Security), the largest private prison firms in the country.
Says Chris Harney, a senior researcher at NCCD:
Since we know private prisons aren’t going away in the near future, we sought insight from experts about substantive ways to slow expansion and improve implementation, operation and oversight. A critical part of this effort is encouraging lawmakers and jurisdictions to consider other options that have been shown to be viable, particularly promoting alternatives to incarceration and, when choosing privatization, demanding stronger contracting and monitoring.
Click here for the full report.
ALEC has helped lead the charge to privatize prisons by writing model legislation for its right-wing state legislature members to push in their states. Read more from this 2011 investigation by The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
On Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and the legislature's top Republican leaders announced they reached a deal on a state budget for next year that includes transferring $50 million from funds intended to help homeowners facing foreclosure to the private prison industry. Worse, some Republican legislators want to "save money" by removing auditing and oversight from private prison contractors. Read more here and here.
In February, a scheme to privatize Florida’s prisons was stopped after a huge public outcry led by Florida working families, community and civil rights groups. The plan was backed by extremist Gov. Rick Scott (R), GEO and ALEC.
An In These Times investigation last summer revealed that ALEC arranged secret meetings between Arizona’s state legislators and CCA to draft what became S.B. 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration law, to keep CCA prisons flush with immigrant detainees. ALEC has proven expertly capable of devising endless ways to help private corporations benefit from the country’s massive prison population.
Click here for the full report.
Also, an AFSCME report last year followed the money from the major private prison corporations to the lawmakers pushing lucrative prison privatization contracts in several states.
According to “Making a Killing: How Prison Corporations Are Profiting from Campaign Contributions and Putting Taxpayers at Risk,” each election cycle the three largest private prison companies—CCA, GEO and the Management & Training Corporation:
pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of governors, state legislators and judges, in the hopes of advancing their political agenda—establishing more private prisons and reducing the number of public ones.
Read the full report here.