Are Private Prisons Bad for Society?

WHAT IT IS

  • February, 2017: Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions reversed orders from the Obama Administration that reduced private-prison contracts.
  • Government officials have previously claimed that private prisons are unsafe.

WHY IT MATTERS

The private-prison industry is mainly controlled by two companies: Core Civic and The Geo Group. Both donated heavily to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, and saw stocks soar after the president’s win. Debate has therefore sparked around AG Sessions’ motivating factors: Is the Department of Justice (DOJ) simply supporting the private sector or is there foul play at hand?

  • PRIVATE SECTOR: “Renew the contracts”

    • We need space:   According to Sessions, and those who support this move, the extra space will be necessary in the future.
    • Money savings:   Government facilities are antiquated and privatization would save money in the long run.
    • Needed for immigration:   Private prisons are used to hold undocumented immigrants and supporters say they are vital at the border.
  • PUBLIC SECTOR: “Get rid of private prisons”

    • Inhumane:   A report by the Justice Department shows that private prisons have more assaults both against inmates and prison staff. Moreover, the ACLU found conditions across multiple private prisons that violate prisoner’s rights.
    • Not necessary:   Private prison populations have decreased to less than half of its 2013 figure, indicating that government can handle the demand.
    • Conflict of interest:   Some argue that the Trump administration’s support of these companies, which funded groups in his interest, are conflicts of interest.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Following Sessions orders, private prisons will continue to serve America.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project has spoken out against the decision, calling it an abuse.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Watch the documentary 13th for another perspective about the criminal justice system in America.
  • Was the decision made based on the interests of private companies instead of the justice system?
  • Are America’s prisons able to manage demand?
  • Does this move to increase prison space hint at a possibility of more arrests?