Column: Beware of prison privatization

The privatization of American prisons is but one of the many manifestations of corruption that can transpire in excessive capitalism.

Though private prisons have existed since the mid-nineteenth century, the prison industry did not truly begin until the late twentieth century. Contractors looked at the injustice of this nation and saw opportunity for private gain. With appeals to certain government officials, it was not difficult to strike mutually beneficial deals under the guise of new prisons “less expensive” than those traditionally run by the government. 

Whether these deals were being made for the pecuniary efficiency of the government or the countless campaign contributions that for-profit prison corporations were making, the result is still the same: when unethical entities benefit from higher incarceration rates, they will do whatever is in their power to drive up those rates, even if it drives the punishment far above what the crime warrants.

The corruption predicted by this syllogistic argument is backed by a myriad of statistics. The largest for-profit prison company in the United States, the Corrections Corporation of America, increased its revenue by more than 500 percent over the last 20 years. Simultaneously, the number of people imprisoned for drug convictions is 10 times what it was in 1980 and the government now spends 72 percent more on prisons than it did in 1997. This rise is not a coincidence. The increase and perpetuation of prison sentences profit the private prison industry; therefore, the private prison industry will fuel the increase and perpetuation of prison sentences.

The three main private prison providers have directly contributed over $6 million to the campaigns of state officials. The private prison industry has spent at least $45 million in the last decade on lobbying for policies that will jail more people for more time. These contributions go to candidates from across the political spectrum, showing that it does not matter the political views of the candidates, just that they will have the ability to repay their debt to their self-interested sponsors. 

Between 1999 and 2010, while the overall prison population increased by 18 percent, the private prison population grew by 80 percent. Unsurprisingly CCA and GEO, another major private prison company, have collectively raked in upwards of $3 billion in annual revenue. The conclusion to be drawn is that the highly unethical private prison industry is essentially buying legislation to increase and perpetuate prison sentences not for justice, but for profit.

It is my hope to expose the nature of untamed industry and its ramifications on this country one issue at a time. The prison industry is, quite unfortunately, not the only instance of corruption that festers in excessive capitalism. However, it is apparent that the very existence of this industry is unethical in a number of ways and should be stopped. 

As people, I ask you to join me in exposing others to the institutional immorality that exists in this nation. As voters, I ask you to join me in helping to overturn rulings like Citizens United, which allows for corporations like CCA and GEO to maintain their control over our government on both the federal and state levels.



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