Prison isn’t enough?

I’m not a fan of treating criminals with kid gloves, but taking away someone’s freedom and ability to associate is the punishment we as a society have agreed to as part of our criminal justice and rehabilitation system. Making mistakes in life and serving time in prison doesn’t mean you should face the threat of rape, assault, torture, and death.

Overcrowded prisons, primarily overflowing because of non-violent drug arrests  have already created huge problems. More recently, private prisons have placed profitability into the equation and reports are alerting us to the ramifications.

From the Huffington Post this morning:

A new report detailing a state inspection of a private prison in Ohio describes gang-related violence so commonplace and drug use so rampant that many guards are afraid to intervene — instead, they are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate.

The harrowing report released last month on conditions inside the 1,700-bed Lake Erie Correctional Institution describes a tableau of dysfunction, lending confirmation to two previous audits that identified widespread problems at the facility.

When did the incarceration of our fellow human beings become a sanctioned money-making enterprise? I know state and local governments are under financial pressure, but really, is this where we want to go? And does anyone really believe that prisoner safety and rehabilitation isn’t going to take a back seat to profit? What happens if you end up in these prisons?

Oh, and saving the taxpayers money, that might not be true either. According to a story published on AZ Central.com last year, Arizona’s private prison experiment isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be:

Arizona’s private prisons are not cost-effective for taxpayers and are more difficult to monitor than state prisons, according to a new report by a prison watchdog group that is calling for a moratorium on any new private prisons in the state.

. . .

Arizona paid $10 million more for private prison beds between 2008 and 2010 than it would have for equivalent state beds.

Arizona’s pending plan to contract for another 2,000 private-prison beds would cost taxpayers at least $38.7 million a year, at least $6 million a year more than incarcerating those inmates in state prisons. Plans to add 500 more maximum-security beds in state prisons would add almost $10 million a year to the bill. The report questioned whether those beds are needed, since the state’s prison population has declined over the past two years by more than 900 inmates, to 39,854 as of Wednesday.

In the past three years, private prisons in Arizona have experienced at least 28 riots and more than 200 other “disturbances” involving as many as 50 prisoners. Many of these incidents had not previously been reported to the public.

I was reminded by this article on PolicyMic that private prisons aren’t new and history is once again repeating itself.

In some cases privatizing public services makes sense. But when dealing with life and liberty, corrections should be answerable to voters and citizens, not shareholders and CEO’s.

*3:47 pm update: Check out Ted Koppel’s comments on youth confinement on Huffington Post here.

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One thought on “Prison isn’t enough?

  1. Agreed. Someone close to my family was just sent to prison and frankly, while his actions certainly justify his incarceration, I’m afraid that what might happen to him while he’s in there will only make his issues worse, not better, and that he’ll be even more of a danger when he’s released. Prison seems to be more of a training ground for more violent criminals rather than a place of rehabilitation.

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