A Path to Liberty and Justice for All: Taking Profit out of Prisons

happy girl.jpg

We’ve long known that it’s a bad idea to turn criminal justice into a profit-making enterprise. This could be a hard idea to swallow coming from defense lawyers, who make their living in the criminal justice system, but the reality is that government – not for-profit companies – should be the one responsible for administering jails and prisons.

There’s more violence in private prisons.

As Mother Jones reports, the Justice Department plans to stop using private prisons. Why? Put simply, there’s more violence in private prisons, and an overall lack of supervision by the federal Bureau of Prisons allows poor conditions for inmates to persist.

Here’s the data (per capita 2011-2014):

  • Private prisons have a 28% higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults
  • Private prisons have more than twice the number of inmate-on-staff assaults

The profit motive creates a perverse result.

Besides the violence problem, another issue gets plenty of attention among those who ponder criminal justice reform: The profit motive, which creates the perverse result of a system that encourages people – tacitly, at least – to continue to enter and re-enter the system.

After all, empty beds in hotels don’t earn owners any money. Similarly, empty beds in prisons aren’t earning companies like the Corrections Corp. of America any money, either, so you want to keep those beds full.

Not anymore.

In a related story, Lisa Simpson dances to the news that the stock price of Corrections Corp. of America has plummeted by 44.82%: