Private enterprise has fully entered the criminal justice system, and in the process, undermined and ruined it in the name of profit and at the expense of human rights.
In 2011, Ohio, facing the usual problem of being Ohio, sold one of its state prisons to the private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America. Within the year that prison, Lake Erie Correctional Institute, has gone down the tubes.
An April 10 thinkprogress.org article reads, “The Lake Erie prison is now reportedly overcrowded at 130 percent capacity, with single-person cells holding three inmates each, according to internal documents obtained by the [American Civil Liberties Union]. Assaults on guards and other inmates have skyrocketed by 40 percent.”
So good work, Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s first privately-owned state prison has failed to do whatever the hell it was Ohio hoped to achieve by selling the prison in the first place. Besides avoiding bankruptcy, of course.
Our criminal justice system is not the place for companies to be trying to make profit or for states to avoid bankruptcy. The system’s already overcrowded, underfunded and rightfully, horribly stigmatized by the American people. Meant to better the people who are sent to it and reform them for a life beyond the prison’s walls, our criminal justice system has become a giant “Indiana Jones”-style storage facility where our criminals are shunted away and forgotten. If they do get out, they face an uphill battle to become a responsible member of society.
Attempting to turn a system that is already failing into a giant cash cow for private enterprise is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to the inmates who have to endure such pitiful conditions. It’s a disgrace to the guards who have to witness the human rights violations perpetrated in the name of profit. It’s a disgrace to the American people for failing to better society through reform. It’s a disgrace to the state that willingly yielded control of its own people rather than fighting and working to remain afloat.
If ever there was an example of the inability of the private sphere to replace the government, this is it. When profit is the primary goal of any activity, someone is going to suffer. In this case, fellow humans.
Granted, it was one prison, one company, and our government isn’t doing much better. However, if a major company whose basis for profit involves criminal justice can’t properly maintain one prison, what does that say about the company? There are thousands of prisons in the U.S. under government control. Granted they’re not perfect, but they’re not modern-style gulags, either.
The problem, then, isn’t government. If we want prisons to properly reform our fellow Americans, the answer is oversight, research and funding. Shipping criminals off to private companies is definitely not the answer unless you want dismal conditions to keep making career criminals.