The United States has more people incarcerated in its state and federal prisons than any other industrial nation. It would seem that we have more criminality than any other country but the majority of these people are serving time for victimless crimes, crimes committed against themselves. These mainly have to do with the illegal use of drugs, control substance. We have been and still are fighting a war against drugs. A large percentage of these prisoners were arrested and convicted in this apparently losing war against drugs. For some reason the majority of these prisoners are Black or Hispanic even though the Caucasian population uses far more narcotics than either or both of these groups. This is true because the majority of the population is White and they use individually the same percentage of the control substances as the other racial groups. It seems that the majority population is far less apt to go to prison than the minority groups. The Whites, it seems, are largely exempt from prosecution for these victimless crimes.
According to the 2010 Census statistics, which were the last time a census was taken, for every 100,000 people in the country 380 are White, 966 are Latino, and 2,207 are Black. The racial and ethnic make-up of incarcerated populations are dramatically different from that of the United States as a whole. A study of all 50 states illustrates that Whites or Caucasians are grossly underrepresented while Hispanics are overrepresented and Blacks are very overrepresented. American Indians and other minority groups, where statistics are kept are also overrepresented.
According to these statistics it would seem that the Caucasian population is essentially law abiding while all the minority groups are the opposite. This is blatant nonsense. It would seem that law enforcement, which is essentially run by White law enforcement officers, spends most of its time going after minority law breakers, particularly Black law breakers. This would indicate that much that happens is ignored and that it is easier to convict Blacks and other minorities. It would also indicate that there is quite a bit wrong with present day laws.
Over the last forty years the United States criminal law system has put more than two million people behind bars at any given time and brought the U.S. prison rate far beyond that of any other nation in the world. It would seem that a good part of this is based upon stereotyping the different ethnic groups within the country. An examination of all fifty states indicates that this is true in each state within the United States.
The United States, in 2010 has more people imprisoned than the top 35 European nations combined. That year the U.S., with a population of 311 plus million people, had 2.3 million people behind bars; China, with a population of about 1 1/3 billion people had 1.6 million inmates. It would seem the U.S. laws are more severe than those of China.
Two thirds of today’s prisoners committed non-violent offenses. This would designate most of these crimes as having to do with control-substances. These are people who refused to go along with the War on Drugs. If this country is truly a democracy then this fact would indicate that a goodly percentage of the American public has voted against the use of narcotics being illegal.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1919. It ushered in the Age of Prohibition, which consisted of the Gangster Era and a considerable increase in drinking alcoholic beverages among the American people. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. Its extent today is largely controlled by the law and its practice is not as extensive as it was during prohibition.
It cost 30 plus thousand dollars a year to house an individual in prison for one year. Just by changing the law on most narcotics the federal government and the individual states will save billions of dollars that can be used for more positive services for the public. The government has and is fighting a losing battle in the War on Drugs. Surely the use of these chemicals can be controlled by laws just as those of alcohol are. The results for the general society would be far better.
Another interesting point is that those who have spent time in prison tend to earn 40% less annually than those who do not. Their children have to do with one parent negatively missing from a good part of their upbringing. In fact, in 2010, one in every 28 children had an incarcerated parent. How is this punishment helping anyone, including the society?
According to a 2014 report by Human Rights Watch, “tough on crime” laws adopted since the 1980s have filled the U.S jails with mostly nonviolent offenders. Many legislatures have continually reduced the discretion of judges in both the sentencing process and the determination of when the conditions of a sentence have been satisfied. Determinate sentencing, use of mandatory minimums, and guidelines based sentencing continue to remove the human element from sentencing. The “three strike laws” have considerably increased the time spent in jail during the last decade. Prison sentences have increased 83% in the last 20 years while violet crimes have decreased during this period.
In the late 1960s, the United States began to expand the powers of its law enforcement agencies, generating by the 1970s an extended reliance on prisons to treat its social, political, economic, and mental health problems. By defining many new acts as crimes and by increasing the severity of sentencing the U.S. witnessed a phenomenal growth in the prison population. Prison overcrowding surpassed the capacity of the jails to hold its population.
Historically criminals, people who couldn’t function within the society and were disruptive by their actions were removed from the society, driven out or incarcerated. Is this the situation today? I think not. Incarceration is based largely upon race and ethnicity, and luck of the draw. If the police sincerely went after everyone going against the laws we would need thirty times the number of prisons we have and the number of prisoners would be far greater than it is today.
Justice as metered out in the United States is an individual thing, one person at a time, separate from everyone in the society. As a footnote, several years ago, a newly elected member of the House of Representatives, a Republican, was caught using narcotics. He apologized to everyone: his newly born child, his wife, Congress, and the people of his state. He was then given time off from his duties as a Congressman with pay to go to a sanitarium for therapy that would cure him, and later returned to Congress to serve out his term. He was never even indicted. The entire justice system is a bad joke, particularly for minorities.
In 1984 a group of Tennessee investors recognized a business opportunity and formed the Correction Corporation of America (CCA). Their goal was to use venture capital to build a new prison and lease their beds to the state in a profit making venture. Today about 10% of all U.S. prisons and jails, containing about 200,000 prisoners have been privatized. The Federal Government also has them house undocumented immigrants and resident aliens. Some of these companies also have facilities outside of the United States.
The bottom line with all these companies is profit. They can warehouse these people at a lower price than the states or the federal government. This is done using lower quality food, medical services, and non-union labor. The governor of Florida proudly stated that he prefers private jails because they cost less than state run ones.
The object of these private institutions is to keep their private jails as full as possible. They have amassed a great deal of political influence through government ties, lobbying and campaign contributions. They have converted justice into the capitalist marketplace. These companies claim that they can run the prisons more efficiently and cheaper than the government and do a better job serving the taxpayers money. The entire concept with their goals of full capacity is ludicrous.
Statistics: Bureau of Justice Statistics
December 2010 1.6 million state and federal prisoners
128,195 housed in private facilities
May 2012 217,690 Federal inmate population
27,970 Federal inmates in private
2011 37,330: Estimated number of detained immigrant population
– U.S. Department of Homeland Security
CCA: Correction Corporation of America
66 facilities owned and operated by them – the country’s largest private prison company
91,000: number of beds available across 20 states
$1.7 billion: Total revenue recorded in 2011
$17.4 million: lobbying expenditure in last ten years
$1.9 million: total political contributions from 2003 to 2012
$3.7 million: executive compensation in 2011
132 recorded number of assaults – inmate on inmate at CCA – Idaho Correction Center between Sept. 2007 & Sept. 2008
42: recorded number of inmate assaults at state run Idaho institution at same period
Both prisons held about 1,500 inmates
The Geo Group – Second largest U.S. Detention Company
$1.6 billion – 2011 revenue
65 domestic correctional facilities owned and operated by them
65,716: number of beds available
$2.5 million: lobbying expenditures in last eight years
$2.9 million: total political contributions from 2003 to 2012
$5.7 million: executive compensation for CEO
$6.5 million: damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuit against the company for beating death of an inmate by his cellmate in GEO Group run Oklahoma prison. Appeal pending.
$1.1 million: fine levied against company in Nov. 2011 by New Mexico Department of Corrections for inadequate staffing at one of its prisons
History – from Private Prisons – edited from Wikipedia article
A private prison or for profit jail or detention center is a place in which individuals, both adults and children, are physically confined by a third party that is contracted by a government agency. These companies generally enter into contractual agreements with governments that commit prisoners and then pay a per diem or monthly rate for each prisoner confined in the facility.
During Reconstruction, after the Civil War, in the South plantations and businessmen needed replacements for the labor force once their slaves had been freed. From 1868 on, convict leases were issued to private parties to supplement their workforce. This system remained in place until early in the 20th Century.
This was not only in the South. In Sequoia National Park, in California, the road to Kings Canyon was built by prison labor in the early 1920s. This was an extremely difficult and dangerous project.
Federal and state governments had a long history of contracting out specific services to private firms. These included medical services, food production, vocational training, and inmate transportation. The 1980s ushered in a new era of prison privatization. There was a burgeoning prison population from the War on Drugs causing increased incarcerations, prison overcrowding. In response to their expanding criminal justice system, private business interests saw an opportunity for expansion and private involvement in prisons moved to the complete complex management and operation of entire prisons.
The modern private prison business first emerged publically in 1984 when CCA was awarded a contract to take over a facility in Tennessee. Since then for profit prison companies have expanded. As of December 2000 there were 153 private correctional facilities, jails and detention centers operating in the United States with a capacity of over 119,000.
The trend toward privately operated prisons continued to grow. By 2011 they contained 85,604 adults housed in 107 facilities. They have seen their profits increase by 500%. The prison industry took in $3 billion in 2011.
Most privately run prisons are located in the southern and western portions of the U.S. and include both state and federal offenders. Pecos, Texas is the site of the largest private prison in the world. The Reeves County Detention Complex, operated by the GEO Group has a capacity of 3,763 prisoners in its three sub-complexes.
Studies, some partially industry funded conclude that states can save money by using for profit prisons. Academic or state funded studies have found that private prisons tend to keep more low cost inmates and send more violent ones back to state run facilities.
A study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the cost savings promised by private prisons did not materialize. Some research has concluded that for profit prisons cost more than public prisons. Cost estimates from privation advocates may be misleading because private facilities often refuse to accept inmates that cost the most to house. A 2011 study concluded that the pattern of sending less expensive inmates to privately run facilities artificially inflated cost savings. A 2005 study found that Arizona’s public facilities were seven times more likely to house violent offender and three times more likely to house those convicted of more serious offenses. A 2011 report by the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that private prisons are more costly, more violent, and less accountable than public prisons, and are a major contributor of increased mass incarceration. Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world, houses the majority of its inmates in the for profit facilities.
A 2014 study shows that minorities make up a greater percentage of prisoners than in their public counterparts, mainly because minorities are cheaper to incarcerate. According to this study, for profit prisons operators, particularly CCA and GEO Group accumulate these low cost inmates through explicit and implicit exceptions written into contracts between these private prison management companies and state departments of corrections.
Evidence suggests that low staff levels and training at private facilities probably lead to increases in violence and escapes. Assaults on guards were 49% more frequent than in government run prisons. Assaults on fellow inmates were 65% more frequent in private prisons. Low staff training led to jail violence in Mississippi at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. The rates of staff is one guard for every 120 prisoners. In a bloody riot in this prison six prisoners were rushed to a hospital, one with permanent brain damage. During the riot, staff just sat there and waited for the riot to quiet down, because prisoners are ten times the number of staff. The lack of well trained staff does not only cause violence but also eruption. According to a former prisoner the correction officers are also in charge of the smuggling in the prison. To make more money they provide prisoners everything, including weapons and drugs. It would seem that the guards are about one short step removed from the prisoners.
The prison industrial complex provides a strong lobbying mechanism to help attain their goals. CCA and The GEO Group have been members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C. public policy organization that develops model legislation which advances free market principles such as privatization. Under their Criminal Justice Task Force, ALEC has developed model bills which state legislators can then consult while proposing touch on crime initiatives. This includes “Truth in Sentencing” and “Three Strike” laws. By this process private prison companies influence legislation for tougher, longer sentences. About 40 states have passed versions of ALEC’s “Truth in Sentencing” model bill, which requires prisoners convicted of violent crimes to serve most of their sentences without chance of parole.
In the “Kids for Cash” scandal, Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corporation, a private company that runs juvenile detention centers was found guilty of paying two judges $2,8 million to send 2,000 children to their prisons for such crimes as trespassing in vacant buildings and stealing DVD’s from Wal-Mart.
We seem now to be gradually moving away from incarceration by private companies for profit and from the extent to which we jail people for victimless crimes. What will happen, I imagine, depends upon the public attitude toward these problems.