The Most Absurd Human Rights Violations (99): Private Prisons in the U.S.

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human rights violations / law / most absurd human rights violations
buster keaton in jail

Buster Keaton in jail

As if the incarceration rate in the U.S. isn’t high enough already, the partial privatization of U.S. prisons creates some perverse incentives: the prison industry’s goal is to extract as much public money as possible by locking up the maximum number of people; this in turn fuels “tough on crime” policies and the insane war on drugs. Some examples:

The private prison industry was secretly involved in drafting Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law to boost demand for its immigrant detention centers. The Corrections Corporation of America has offered to help relieve the fiscal crises of 48 states by buying their prisons—provided the states sign a contract to keep them 90 percent full for the next twenty years, regardless of the crime rate. (source)

Not long after 11 September 2001, Steven Logan, the CEO of Cornell Companies (now part of the for-profit prison corporation GEO Group Inc) had good news for its shareholders. In a quarterly earnings call, Logan enthusiastically talked about tighter border control and a heightened focus on (immigrant) detention in the wake of the attacks. As he put it, “more people are gonna get caught. So I would say that’s a positive.” (source)

Note that more than 120,000 of America’s record 2 million prisoners are in private jails, plus a large number of illegal immigrants.

More on the problems created by excessive reliance on financial incentives here. More absurd human rights violations here.

1 Comment

  1. In my view a person who is incarcerated for profit does not pay a dime but remains in custody at a cost to those who incarcerated him or her. These prisons for profit were a new experience for me when I learned about Spanish friends who were arrested to be released on heavy bonds on traffic citations while ultimately facing deportation from the US.
    I find that for-profit jails might be a place to get away from a busy society, pull a plug on daily expenses, and a time to learn how to use a difficult time for introspection and creativity.
    But of course there are those who are afraid of being incarcerated and I know it is easy to say what I would or would not do if I were in that situation. Speaking from experience, I know that I would NOT pay a dime for a bond on a crime created for profit, nor would I allow anyone to pay on my behalf on such an “absurdity”. I think to do so would in effect be complacency to this gross violation of human rights.

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