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: http://post.queensu.ca/~woodpj/ips_015.pdf.
The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery? Available: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289.
Ammna Nasser (Dubai Campus)