Should Prisons Be Privatized?

Posted On: May 14th, 2015 by Bradley J. Groene

In the United States, for-profit companies are responsible for approximately 6 percent of state prisoners and even more in local jails. This means that thousands of people are incarcerated in privatized prisons every year. With so many people affected by the trend towards privatization, it is important to question whether or not these prisons are really in the best interests of the prisoners incarcerated there.

Here in Ohio, we have been hearing horror stories about private prisons over the past few years. In the Northeast Ohio Corrections Center in Youngstown alone, murders and stabbings within the prison and escapes out of the facility became a common state of affairs. Furthermore, the conditions within the prison were said to be inhumane and unsanitary, leading the federal Bureau of Prisons to close the facility earlier this year. According to the ACLU, these problems are common within private prison facilities across the state.

Despite this, there is still significant support for private prisons in some sectors. The lower cost to the state is appealing, and some studies suggest that the competition among private prisons could motivate them to provide better quality care in order to keep their contracts and compete with other companies in the private prison industry. In the end, the citizens of Ohio will have to decide whether or not these private prisons should be allowed in our state.

The Pros and Cons of Private Prisons

In order to make an informed opinion on whether or not prisons should be privatized, we all need to consider the pros and cons of privatization. The biggest pro of private prisons is the reason they were allowed in the first place: cost. Private prisons can be run at a much lower cost than public prisons. There is a focus on streamlining and cutting costs that can’t be as easily put into place in publicly-run institutions. Salaries for workers at the prisons tend to be lower and supplies are not subject to the same restrictive contracts that the government requires.

Still, cost-cutting measures come at a price within the prisons. Inmates have complained that they receive a sub-par quality of food and supplies. Plus, the lower wages for guards and staff at prisons can mean that they have a lack of experience that leads to problems of safety and control.

Still, there are other benefits of private prisons. They are generally more efficient and require less red tape to adjust to changing prison conditions, allowing the prison to be more flexible. Plus, some of these private prisons do have better conditions than their public counterparts where competition for prison contracts is stiff.

Unfortunately, there are just as many other cons to private prisons. Since profit in these institutions is the primary goal, rather than the rehabilitation of inmates, private prisons generally do not operate in the best interests of the inmates. Many have been revealed to overwork inmates in conditions that could be considered inhumane. Plus, this work could be considered a form of slave labor, since they do not receive proper wages and do not have any choice in the form of labor they must do. Many private prisons do not properly give incentive for good behavior that could lead to early release, as the prison would lose trained labor. Plus, time for education programs and jobs training can be limited.

Furthermore, it becomes more difficult to monitor for these problems in private facilities, as private companies are subject to less scrutiny than the government. Transparency is limited and focuses more on the perspective of the shareholder. Finally, private prisons make our country dependent upon having criminals to fill the beds at these prisons. Contracts with the state usually include clauses requiring a certain number of beds to be filled at all times. This can increase the pressure to have harsh laws for non-violent crime. Moreover, private prisons can have undue influence on the justice system, as we become more dependent on them to house the incarcerated.

As you can see this is a complex issue, but there are some serious drawbacks to private prisons that we should better consider. Perhaps it is time to rethink these prisons in Ohio for the sake of us all. While they do still exist, though, people will increasingly be sent to these prisons as punishment for their crimes. That’s why it’s so important to have a good criminal defense that can keep you out of jail. If you have been arrested in Ohio, call the Cincinnati criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates today at (513) 338-1890. We will always fight to get your case the best outcome possible. Don’t become another statistic in the private prison debate.