The audit shows that Georgians pay more per day for each
prisoner in each of Georgia’s four private prisons than they do for the
prisoners in the state-run facilities. The
study committee is ongoing and Chairman England has additional considerations
to explore. Might I suggest for further exploration a much harder question that
scratches at the deepest wounds of our great country. Should anyone profit from prisons?
Why don’t we treat our prisons as investments for a safer state?
Public safety, like education and infrastructure, are investments that have
helped make America great. There is no logical
reason to continue to use our prison system as another opportunity for a
private corporation to capitalize on our tax dollars. If the majority of Georgia’s prisons are state-run,
there is not any reason that we cannot take profit completely out of
incarceration. Particularly, if it will
cost us less to get the same outcome.
There is no logical reason to continue to use our prison system as another opportunity for a private corporation to capitalize on our tax dollars.
Although overshadowed by his various tweets, President Trump’s
federal criminal justice reform bill is a good example of an investment in
public safety. Among other provisions,
the First Step Act encourages the use of
evidence-based classes, training, and counseling resources to reduce recidivism
after offenders are released. Federal inmates
who complete these new programs can get time off of their original sentence. Although Trump over exaggerated the
legislation’s benefits, it does go to the heart of rethinking our prison
industrial complex and makes safety an investment rather than a budget issue.
I also hope the study committee compares the recidivism rates
of inmates from private prisons to those from state run facilities. The private prison industry should at least have
to show cost saving results to prove they are worth the higher sticker price. The private prisons have not brought
innovation to incarceration so why are we paying more to a private corporation?
Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration
in the Age of Colorblindness, and Ava Duvernay’s Netflix documentary, 13th,
give thorough explanations of the origins of America’s current prison
system. Criminal justice policies like
for-profit prisons are based on a system built during the Reconstruction Era. Educated Georgians know that after the Civil War,
confederate states created “Black Codes”
that severely punished newly freed slaves for minor infractions or false charges. This prison industry complex was created to
continue slavery by another name.
We know the purpose of private prisons in the 1800’s but what
purpose do they serve today? Private citizens profiting from the bondage of
another human is one of those traditions created at a time when America was at its
worst. Without discussing the
uncomfortable history any deeper than that, any courageous legislators willing
to put a stop to the same private profiteering would be making history. Chairman England and the rest of the
committee were not alive in 1865 and did not build the broken criminal justice foundation. Luckily each new legislative session brings
the opportunity to fix it. Previous criminal
justice reform policies stopped short of removing private prisons and left the
stigma attached to the antiquated policy that allows a corporation to profit
from someone else’s incarceration.
Private citizens profiting from the bondage of another human is one of those traditions created at a time when America was at its worst.
We will always need prisons for those individuals who are dead
set on being criminals and cannot be helped by reform. However, it does not make sense for Georgians
to pay more money to private industries to get an inferior product. Removing policies created at the end of the Civil
War that have minimal public safety benefit would restore some faith in our
justice system. Let’s hope that the
study committee and the financial audit of our prison system is enough evidence
to support a moral change that is long overdue.