Economic Impacts of Prison Growth
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These changes are projected to increase prison admissions and sentence length, which is likely to contribute to an expansion of private facility contracting. Indeed, in May , the DOJ issued a new solicitation to increase capacity by 1, beds in privately-run Criminal Alien Requirement facilities intended for non-citizens charged with lower-level offenses, including drug and immigration offenses.
This was followed in January with a Bureau of Prisons memorandum to federal prison officials outlining goals for increasing population levels in private facilities and ordering officials to expedite transfers of people deemed eligible for placement in contract institutions. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Sentencing Project. By , that number had jumped to 26, people. This expansion of detention was influenced by a shift in immigration policy enforcement. By fiscal year the quota was raised to 34, beds. In , a major influx of migrants from Central America led to an expansion of immigration detention under the Obama Administration. Flow of Central Americans to U. Surging, Expected to Exceed Numbers. The Washington Post. Incidents of assault, hunger protests, and medical neglect were reported at these facilities.
Mother Jones. CBS News. According to ICE reports, arrests and detentions of immigrants have increased more than 40 percent since mid Arizona Public Media. In September ICE requested that a new immigrant detention center be constructed in South Texas, stating that it would need to hold approximately 1, more migrants. This facility will be operated by GEO Group, and is expected to open in late Prison privatization has prospered because of claims that for-profit facilities are more cost efficient at providing services than publicly-run institutions.
The evidence does not support this assertion. In , the U. General Accounting Office GAO looked at four state-funded studies and one commissioned by the federal government assessing the cost benefits of private prisons. Similar conclusions were reached in a meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Utah that looked at eight cost comparison studies resulting in vastly different conclusions.
Incarceration & social inequality | American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Research on Social Work Practice, 19, Pgs. Many of these findings have been replicated in individual states. In Ohio, state officials have contended that private facilities regularly meet or surpass the legal requirement of containing costs at least five percent below a state-run equivalent. Accounting for these factors greatly reduced if not completely diminished the purported advantages of private prisons. Policy Matters Ohio. Private prison companies face a challenge in reducing costs and offering services necessary to maintaining safety in prisons while also generating a profit for shareholders.
The primary approach to controlling spending is by maintaining lower levels of staff benefits and salary than publicly-run facilities. Labor costs normally account for 60 to 70 percent of annual operating budgets. Such savings, though, risk compromising safety and security within prisons. Corrections Officer Salary.
Tracking the impact of the prison system on the economy
Oliver Hart, the winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, contends that for-profit prison contracts lack sufficient incentives for proper job training. The Economics of Private Prisons. The Brookings Institute. Consequently, there are higher employee turnover rates in private prisons than in publicly operated facilities. Maybe you can squeeze a half a percent out, who knows? And at some point, you start to lose quality. These dynamics may contribute to safety problems within prisons.
Studies have found that assaults in private prisons can occur at double the rate found in public facilities. Growth and Quality of U. Private Prisons: Evidence from a National Survey. See note Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization.
The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. Corrections Corporation of America.
In order to overcome these challenges, private prison companies at times have joined with lawmakers, corporations, and interest groups to advocate for privatization through the American Legislative Exchange Council ALEC. The company contributed additional funds to sit on issue task forces and sponsor events hosting legislators.
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These policies promoted mandatory minimum sentences, three strikes laws, and truth-in-sentencing, all of which contribute to higher prison populations. ALEC also helped draft legislation that could increase the number of people held in immigration detention facilities.
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When established in , Corrections Corporation of America pledged to build and operate prisons with the same quality of service provided in publicly operated prisons but at a lower cost. Core Civic maintains more than 80, beds in over 70 facilities, including prisons, immigrant detention, and reentry centers. GEO Group operates a similar number of facilities. Moreover, at least one prison company appears to be acting in the personal financial interest of President Trump.
Private prison companies are seeking to expand their influence with state governments as well. Great Falls Tribune. The money had originally been set aside to allow the state to purchase the private facility. The state is facing a major budget shortfall and many in the legislature are urging the governor to accept the offer. The companies also provide prison healthcare services and have established residential reentry centers. GEO Group has also recently attempted to rebrand its services. The facility expects to enroll up to people and provide training, drug treatment and resources for reentry.
The contract is an important foothold for GEO in a state without private prisons. Because these companies remain profit-making entities, concerns about the quality of their public safety services persist among critics who question company investments in training, staffing levels and programming.
The United States has experienced 40 years of unprecedented growth in its prison population but a recent stabilization and modest reduction in incarceration has largely ended the prison building boom and now provides an opportunity to reexamine policies of prison privatization. The complications of mass incarceration that include the fracturing of low-income communities of color, the mistreatment of incarcerated people and the subjugation of people with criminal records cannot be wholly laid at the feet of private prison corporations.
Over several decades, public institutions and lawmakers, with public consent, implemented policies that led to mass incarceration and the collateral consequences that followed. But private prisons have capitalized on the chaos of this policy approach and have worked to sustain it. Public corrections systems have been plagued by poor conditions of confinement and mismanagement that require significant reform.
As a result the worst elements of incarceration are exacerbated by privatization. Developing public awareness about the excesses of the criminal justice system, coupled with the recent nationwide declines in prison populations, provides an opportunity to work towards creating a more humane and restorative prison system that one day will manage only a fraction of the people it does today. With that objective in mind we propose the following recommendations:.
Due to the numerous safety and transparency issues associated with for-profit prisons, states and the federal government should phase out their reliance on these facilities through terminating contracts. States such as North Carolina have demonstrated that it is possible for governments to discontinue their reliance on for-profit prisons. In other jurisdictions where prison capacity may now be exceeding demand due to overall declines in the prison population, the political support for phasing out private prisons should increase.
To the extent that jurisdictions continue to contract with private prisons they should adopt policies requiring greater transparency and openness to public inquiry. Currently, the federal Freedom of Information Act does not apply to private prisons, and therefore there is no legal remedy if a private prison refuses to disclose information about its practices.
Such laws would subject private prison companies to the same level of scrutiny as government run prison facilities.
In contrast to public prisons, private prisons frequently contract with state governments to confine people out-of-state, with 10, people housed this way as of Huffington Post. States such as Vermont—which has no private prisons—shipped people out of state to avoid the cost of building state-run prison facilities.