Should Anyone Profit from Prisons?

Representative Terry England

James Salzer of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported on a debate about Georgia’s private and state prisons.  The article details an audit conducted by a study committee in the Georgia General Assembly.   House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England’s study committee will explore the impact of Governor Deal’s criminal justice reform policies on Georgia.  This committee has a historic opportunity to recommend bold reforms and make great use of tax payer dollars. 

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.

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LaDawn LBJ JonesdownthemiddleBenevolusAndrew C. PopeEllynn Recent comment authors
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Will Durant
Will Durant

Valiant, if not Quixotic effort I’m afraid. As long as we have a super majority Republican regime the march to prisons, probation, and policing for profit will continue. Just one example would be former representative Mark Hamilton as the newly appointed Minister Director of External Affairs by Governor Kemp. He was the sponsor of legislation a couple of years back that would have made the business of private companies running and ruining misdemeanor probationers more opaque and even more profitable. Thank goodness Gov. Deal vetoed it. Outsourcing essential government services like prisons and policing to profit minded private organizations is… Read more »

Noway2016
Noway2016

Who supplies the food for our gov’t run prisons? Unless we got Strother Martin harassing the inmates in the prison garden, that be private contractors!

Who supplies sheets, pillows, soap, clothing, socks? Unless them inmates are blazing along with their very own Singer Sewing Machines…That be private contractors, too.

So, your indignant, sniff of a response…

“Outsourcing essential government services like prisons and policing to profit minded private organizations is an abomination. Period.”

is just more Lib Hysteria…

bethebalance
bethebalance

There is a difference between the institution, and the supplies and materials. Between a General Contractor and subcontractors. It’s not about the food or clothes, It’s about whether any for-profit can ever put the cost of Constitutional protections, or the costs of socially beneficial services (like education) over that profit, which is something that government must do all the time.
Prison reform is also obviously not a partisan issue. Unless you didn’t notice the recent bill signed by your dreamboat Pres.

Noway2016
Noway2016

Lol! Keep on sputtering, Balance! Duh, duh, duh, duh…

Will Durant
Will Durant

It appears you are the one sputtering nonsense and trolling yet again without a cogent response. Your feeble attempt to move the goalposts from essential government services to supply purchasing doesn’t wash. Our state government in recent years has outsourced the administration of state prisoners to private corporations, arrest powers to employees of private corporations, and even issuing traffic citations to private corporations. All of whom have contributed money to Republican war chests. It is indeed a “lib” issue. A civil libertarian one.

Noway2016
Noway2016

So there were never any privatization of the services you discussed under a Dem governor? Did you take into account any privatization of similar services under Atlanta city government , which has been Dem run since forever?!

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Please crawl back to the cesspool of the Morning Reads if you don’t have anything relevant or constructive to provide.

Will Durant
Will Durant

I’m not going to play the partisan whataboutism games with you. As I have stated over and again I don’t use the right vs. left arguments when I’m applying my own determinations on issues. I go with my interpretation of right vs. wrong. Besides that, all of the state government for the last 16 years has been led by governors who have been Republican less time cumulatively than I was. I would be just as opposed to prison privatization if they had still been Democrats.

Ellynn
Ellynn

The question should be asked WHY states use private prisons. Sometimes it has to due with space and sometimes it has to do with coughing up the money to build the space. Prisons are some of the most expensive cost per SF construction a state can own.

bethebalance
bethebalance

And when they’re built for such specific purposes, there can be a risk to losing value in the facility as an asset, because of resale possibilities- if there is a closure. But I think Atlanta is looking at some unique repurposing/rehab possibilities, and there are a growing number of developers looking as well. I don’t think I came across that info here, but I’ll try to find a link for that.
It would be fitting and appropo if a prison facility itself could be rehabilitated to serve a better use for society.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Give it to Noway he’s multi-faceted, troll–I get snapped now and then—and also in the words of Barney Frank: “[T}rying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table.”l

downthemiddle
downthemiddle

Or Clint Eastwood saying the country would have been better off electing an “empty chair” compared to all of the harmful taxes regulations and legislation passed by Obama and his liberal cronies!

Does anyone want to take that one on? Since Trump has reversed so much of Obama’s agenda and things are so much better off, I think we know the answer don’t we?

bethebalance
bethebalance

“Duh, duh, duh…”

Your words. Your exhibition of your brain.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

BTB, I do it too, but it’s a waste of time respond to a nonsense argument. Nobody is advocating a government service be completing as a wholly vertically integrated organization. Suggestion that opposition to prison privatization is comparable to opposition to state prisons purchasing instead of manufacturing their own clothes is so utterly ridiculous it doesn’t merit a response. What’s next, government manufacture the paper for its own form?

Ellynn
Ellynn

There really is a difference in a private contractor/supplier to a state run prisons vs. a privately run for profit prison. Everyone of the private suppliers have to go through a state bidding processes which is open for 28 business days, has a written specification and defined types of things used. This means you get a competitive bid with the lowest bidder who has met a whole list of minimum requirements set out in the RFP, has been vetted finically, is boned and has a whole set of stop gaps to prevent the state from losing money through cost and/or… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

My father took some time away from the VFW earlier today to call and tell me that he had just heard a story on “public radio” about how prison employees were using prisoners as their personal labor force and basically running their own privates businesses out of the prisons.
I’ve tried to find a story like that on NPR to no avail (yet).

I don’t know if this is a function of privatization or not. Seems like it could happen either way without proper oversight, and would likely be non-partisan too.

downthemiddle
downthemiddle

Oh like the county chain gangs did for YEARS?

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I think we’ve reached the point where Noway exists simply to disagree with whatever is posted by a “lib” commenter. I continue to be dumbfounded as to why he’s been allowed to keep commenting here. On to the actual point of balance’s comment: I concur. One of the best developments I’ve seen recently is the rise of drug courts and/or homeless courts, which recognize that a lot of criminal offenses arise out of circumstances like drug addiction and/or mental illness and seek to find ways to help offenders get necessary (and sometimes life-saving) treatment rather than punish them through incarceration.… Read more »

downthemiddle
downthemiddle

Hardly, it is to question the premise of an off the wall idea. If someone pontificates that healthcare should be free and no profit motive, why don’t we go to the law, homebuilders, car dealers, groceries stores for crying out loud. We all need to eat! Andrew you should work for free. Be a low paid drone. For the betterment of society. We all need houses, why should contractors or architects’ make a bundle? Why are those professions better than others? Some balance is needed or we will turn ourselves into the next Cuba or Venezuela. A good thing according… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

What the f—- are you even talking about?

downthemiddle
downthemiddle

Maybe we should just paint by numbers for you Andrew….

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Seriously, what the f— are you talking about? Why are you talking about Cuba or the Communist Party or Bernie Sanders, the f— does that have to do with for profit prisons?

downthemiddle
downthemiddle

I am dumbfounded by someone like you being dumfounded by honest, probing questions regarding a lot of the things you propose. Occasionally I will agree with you. Maybe let the ball players make more money for example… Aren’t you glad Trump changed the laws and punishment of certain drug crimes recently? Now why in the hell didn’t Obama and the liberals do something about it years ago? Why in the hell didn’t Obama do something on the illegal immigration problems rather than make it worse and encouraging mass migration? Trump is addressing messes that have been festering for decades. He… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

I’m fine with nominal privatization, including if the expense is only a little greater. I think the number of private prisons, two, each with different corporate owners, that collectively house 15% (7,800) of the inmate population is the limit. A new third private prison would be over the limit. Chairman England expressed concerns the study did not include all state expenses, notably pensions. I don’t think adding pension expense, if it wasn’t included, will much change the study findings. The difference in prisoner per diem expense, about 10%, is likewise the limit of “only a little greater”. Ten percent incidentally… Read more »

Noway2016
Noway2016

Not meant to be a threadjack but are there any other professions that should not be done for profit? Doctors, for instance? Just curious as to the anti capitolist rationale these days.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

People don’t engage because you don’t define anything about economics. Nobody knows what you mean by “professions that should not be done for profit”, and nobody has the time to try to coax definitions or explanations..

Noway2016
Noway2016

This morning’s poster’s subject was questioning for profit prisons. I’m asking are there other areas that should forgo the profit motive. Pretty simple question even for you.

downthemiddle
downthemiddle

Dave it is a simple question. I think anyone can follow its logic…

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Here’s a simple response. Compensation received for work isn’t profit, I don’t have time for a treatise to explain it. Again, inadequate definition for those outside the bubble.

Noway2016
Noway2016

LMAO!
You are a blithering idiot! How bout a simple example. I paint your house for $1000 as an example. I’ll make sure my supplies are covered and I charge you additional money for my effort! That be my profit! Or it costs Chevy $30,000 to make a tricked out Tahoe. They charge 50k. Tell me, David: is there any profit there? What an absolute fool!

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Independent painters shouldn’t forgo profit. General Motors is a corporation, not a profession.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

“Not meant to be a threadjack, but here’s a threadjack”

— Noway2016

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

You beat me to it, though it’s subject matter that could be woven to.

Noway2016
Noway2016

It’s actually not. It went along with the profit subject line. Thanks for playing, Shrivler!!