Cha-Ching !


Here is a short anecdote from XYZ’s experience at a private prison, which is shared as follows:

“XYZ was imprisoned for stealing less than $30 for food after not receiving her benefit payments, and was sentenced to 10 months. The day after she was taken in to custody, she began to have a miscarriage. The dead fetus was left allegedly in the cell with “blood everywhere”. XYZ was left to clean up the blood. She reportedly did not receive any medical attention until three days later.” Can you as an individual imagine being confined in a prison for a non-violent crime whereby one is beaten, sexually abused or even left to suffer without adequate medical attention?  The privatisation of the prison system in the United States of America is proven to be awful, and communities suffer consequently. Enough light is not shed upon this issue of concern, or so I feel.

The privatisation of prisons began in the 1970s. An unprecedented expansion in the United State’s prison population coupled with Reagan’s era of a political environment which encouraged free-market efficient solutions were key contributors to the privatisation of prisons. Private companies operate in competitive environments, are efficient and hence, add capacity more quickly lowering costs whilst providing good quality service to inmates. This belief can be challenged on several grounds. Firstly, a rise in the number of prisoners produces profits for prison owners. Therefore, they lobby for longer prisoner imprisonment by jailing people convicted of non-violent crimes, and so forth. In addition, private prisons accommodate beyond capacity and engage in poor provision of essential services like medical assistance, food, clothing and security which does lower their operational cost as a consequence of a sub-standard service delivery to inmates.

It is essential to note that the prison business is among the fastest growing industries in the United States of America. Investors are on Wall Street. Prisoner labour contracts by private firms consist of; Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T,  and plenty others. They pay prisoners peanuts, but still enables inmates to send some money back home so they avoid raising their voice against such cruel practices. These corporations have exhibited their excitement regarding economic boom generation by prison labour. The private contracting of prisoners for work also promotes incentives to ensure people are locked up for long periods since privatised prisons depend on the inmates income generation.

While privatisation of prisons (or any institution for that matter) is perceived as a form of tax savings for the general public, I disagree with this statement and deem it a myth. Privatised corporations are given lump some of our tax money labelled as “incentives”, or “corporate welfare”. Individuals who engage in the privatisation of prison systems are generally wealthy. Let us not forget that it is a multi-billion dollar industry. Thus, the money they obtain through such mechanisms is kept for personal gain, and we are less likely to see it ever again. Once again – The rich get richer and poor poorer! Private prison owners are the winners in the global political economy who thrive at the expense of inmates, and the wider community.  


Globalisation and Prison privatisation. Available:

The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery? Available:

Ammna Nasser (Dubai Campus)


5 thoughts on “Cha-Ching !

  1. Great post Ammna! I completely agree, prison owners are most definitely the winners. The concept of private prisons is quite scary. I think it’s the responsibility of the governments to control prisons in order to stop such corruption, otherwise no one is truly safe.

    Deena Abdo

  2. Amazing post. Reaganism has shown little benefits to any other class other than the rich getting richer. I think the lobbying for still allowing anyone to own a gun in the US still benefits the prison owners and many other republican decisions. Unfortunately,human beings have always tried to benefit from one another even if it was based on someone else’s pain. Another thing is, if it is privatised, it’s meant to provide a better “service”. However, privatisation of prison have just allowed more unnecessary people to be in the major league.

    Suzan Shedid (Dubai Campus)

  3. I agree Suzan. Great point regarding gun ownership in U.S.A. They lobby for an access to arms to protect “themselves”. Key questions which arise consequently constitute; who has access to gun ownership? Is it truly to protect themselves? Essentially, who comprises “themselves”? – Ammna Nasser (Dubai campus)

  4. It is very interesting post. I agree that prisons have to be controled by government. It is government’s responsibility to control this sphere otherwise it becomes more corrupt. Furthermore, how it is even possible to have the same standards in these prisons and to check them if they are privatized by different organisations and companies. Of course, in many cases, the prisons which are under government’s control are not good enough as well, but when it comes to privatization of the prisons by different companies, many questions began to appear such as who are the members of the staff in these prisons, what are the standards of food and different facilities, and the most important, in case of government, the relatives of the prisoners know where exactly they have to go in order to complain or bring the changes if needed. However, in case of privatization of prisons it is harder because of the fact that each prison is under a particular company’s control and it makes the situation more complicated because of the process of negotiation where not only government and a particular citizen are involved but also a particular company or may be even several companies as well.

    Adil Zhaukov

    • Adil-you have mentioned some great questions one can pose. Thank you for your comment. I agree that privitisation will cause a lack of uniformity in the provision of services. In addition, while privitisation is suppose to enhance service delivery, “lowering costs” and “profit motives” can result in the opposite. You have mentioned the complication of situations which may arise. This is a very valid point and reinforces my post outcome whereby I believe that these private companies benefit at the expense of the wider society. – Ammna Nasser (Dubai campus)

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