A vast majority of American citizens and American taxpayers never, fortunately, have any contact with either local, state or federal lockups – jails or prisons. Nevertheless, every taxpayer presently supports two types of lockups at each of those levels – the ones run in the traditional way, by the appropriate government authority, and, increasingly, the ones run, under contract with government agencies, by private, for-profit firms. The latter rip off their sponsors and the taxpayers who support them, to the tune of many millions of dollars annually. Worse, they royally rip off the prisoners they are paid to oversee and, directly or indirectly, those inmates’ families and friends.
What’s worse, at least two of those huge for-profit companies are using an uncontrolled amount of their enormous amount of profit to so strenuously lobby Congress that it has been impossible to advance legislation that would enable the public to learn something about how they do business, and profit, at our expense.
Repeated attempts to pass a Private Prison Information Act, which would require those for-profit prison operators to “comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), by making certain records available to the public,” can’t get enough support to pass because of private prison supporters’ lobbying efforts.
Astonishingly, those companies cannot be compelled under FOIA rules to release any information about how they do what they do, how they double- and triple-dip on both the public weal (trust) and, in several ways, its pocketbook.
Nearly as astonishing is the fact that a current Republican presidential candidate, the one whose name sounds like the creation of a video game developer, has received close to (or, by now, more than) $50,000 in contributions from one of the ‘big two’ for-profit prison operators – GEO. The other biggie is CCA, the Corrections Corporation of America.
Florida is one of several states – others being Tennessee and “border states with high populations on undocumented immigrants” – where politicians, particularly Republicans, have been among “the biggest beneficiaries of private prisons’ political donations,” The Washington Post reported earlier this year.
That Post article, under the headline ‘How for-profit prisons have become the biggest nobody lobby is talking about,’ noted that GEO, CCA “and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts; Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar: They now rake in a combined total of $3.3 billion in annual revenue, and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute.
That six-year-old report, nevertheless the most recent, comprehensive exploration of this issue, said that as of December 31, 2009, “approximately 129,000 people were held in privately-managed correctional facilities in the United States.” They represented, the report continued, “16.4 percent of federal and 6.8 percent of state [prison] populations.”
And there’s a reason why, “since 2000, private prisons have increased their share of the ‚market‛ substantially: the number of people held in private federal facilities increased approximately 120 percent, while the number held in private state facilities increased approximately 33 percent. During this same period, the total number of people in prison increased less than 16 percent. Meanwhile, spending on corrections has increased 72 percent since 1997, to $74 billion in 2007,” according to the same report.
The reason (not being reported from that report), is that one of the nastiest, costliest aspects of the deals jail and prison authorities – the ‘real’ ones, the ones theoretically under public control – make with the private prison operators requires occupancy rates of perhaps 90, even 100 percent!
But here’s the problem, in the face of close to 6,100 people having been released since last Friday (Oct. 30), according to NPR, because of a retroactive change in the way people convicted of drug-related crimes are sentenced: Those contractual obligations for prison occupancy quotas could simply result in more people – new prisoners – being incarcerated in accord with the provisions of those quota contracts.
How ‘locked up’ is that?
Meanwhile, the profits continue to roll in – with no oversight – to the private prison operators who charge inmates for everything from toilet paper (!) to toothpaste (!).
Sadly, those private prison operators have ‘partners in crime’, one of which will be looked at later this week. (It’s looking to parlay an already-enormously-profitable business into a whole new realm – one that, in both its simplicity and its gall, will make you gag!
And, hopefully, write your members of Congress. This unaccountable BS has to stop!
Please checkout Commotion In The Pews, an eclectic blog by a brilliant (ex-Naval Intelligence) guy with a fascinating range of interests and a hobby being Santa, wherever he’s invited, in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
Some of what Joe Courtemanche writes about probably won’t excite you, but at the very least, you more than likely will be impressed by his common sense, and the way he tells his tales.