Chandler, Arizona, United States
There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .
Privatized Prisons Are Bullshit
with love from CRS @ 11:17 AM
this entry brought to you by yeah yeah yeahs, "phenomena"
There are a lot of industries that we in America have allowed private companies to profit from that are disgusting and shouldn't be allowed. Nobody should be allowed to profit from health insurance. The fact that there are people who make money, and need to make more money each quarter, off of people being sick and trying to make themselves better is one of the most heinous things ever created. Private companies making money off of war is insidious, horrifying, and there is no way it doesn't go bad.
But privatized prisons? I would argue that they are worse than the previous two examples. They are a cancer on our society, and I don't feel like there's a valid argument to have them at all. Ever.
This is how public industry works: You pay taxes, and it goes to an industry that is doing the greater good. We all need someone to build roads, it benefits everyone, someone has to do it, so you pay taxes and the government does it. In public industry there is no need to make a profit because the return is the greater good of the community. We invest in teachers now, and in a generation we have more people with better jobs investing money into the economy. Everybody benefits.
Now, a private industry makes a product that benefits the builder of the product. I want to emphasize that I do not think that there's anything wrong with private industry. Even in the example of someone creating a product nobody needs-- say, an Ipod-- if people want to spend money on it, the company makes money. The consumer is happy with their new doo-dad, the company is happy because they made more money, everybody wins.
So in every example of private industry, there is a product, and there is a customer. In the case of private prisons, who are the customers? The product is the prison itself. Basically the government says, we will give you this plot of land, and you build the prison, freeing us from having to spend the money making and maintaining the building itself. Thus saving the state millions of dollars. Right?
But now the private company just spent millions of dollars making that prison. In the case of a state-owned prison, the public doesn't need that money back because the greater good is that we have prisoners off the street. The private company, however, needs that money back, because they need to make a profit.
So who are the customers? Not the prisoners; they can't pay. The customers are you and me. Which means the government pays them with our taxes.
But if the government had paid for the prison outright, we would have paid for it in taxes as well. Either way we are paying for it in taxes. The difference is that were we to make the prison as a public project, we would have to have that money up front. The private prison fronts that money itself, and we slowly pay it back. So everything is better on our balance sheets, right? This is the cell phone contract idea. Instead of paying 700 dollars for your iPhone upfront, you write a contract saying you'll buy it for 100 dollars, and slowly pay more over time.
However, with a cell phone, your iPhone-- the product-- eventually dies. People get other products. Prisons tend to stay there. So while you and I would like to eventually stop paying for our cell phones, our private prisons are perpetually being paid for by us, so once it's paid off, we keep paying for it well past how much we would spend on it if we'd just paid that money up front.
Still, one might argue, paying a little bit until the end of time is better for the books than having to pay for that whole thing ourselves all at once.
This brings us to the bigger problem: In a prison owned by the public, we have an incentive to rehabilitate. Keeping a prisoner locked up costs money, so it behooves us to make that person get out and make sure they never return, because that costs less money. If we own our own prisons, it is to our benefit to make laws that are fair. We don't need to make up insane laws where the punishment does not fit the crime, as seen in California's "3 strikes" law, because it does not make sense to pay more money for someone who is not a threat to the public at large.
The private prison, on the other hand, needs to make a profit above all else, so they have an incentive to not rehabilitate. They make more money if they have people coming back repeatedly, or worse, never leave, which is why the private prison lobby keeps writing these draconian laws filled with bullshit mandatory sentences, which completely bastardize the judicial process and don't allow judges to, you know, judge.
It should be illegal. There is no argument for it.
I don't even accept the fact that, in terms of having a budget, it's better to spend a little money until the end of time than it is to spend a lot at once. It's not like the private company ever sells the prison to the state once they've made a specific amount of profit. Why would they? It continually brings in money.They have an incentive to have more prisoners, less prison workers, more prisoners doing more work, less quality food, etc, etc, etc...
We've created some disgusting things in modern society. Perhaps privatized jails aren't as bad as privatized health care and privatized wars-- but it's right the fuck up there.