Privatized prison - payment by results

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Like the UK the USA is also headed down the road of privatization of the prison service and in fact has been on that road for a while (like the UK).

418714_417672961643679_284862502_nAmerica's largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, is on a buying spree. With a war chest of $250 million, the corporation, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, sent out letters to 48 states, offering to buy their prisons outright. To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full. Plus, the corporate jailers demand a 20-year management contract, on top of the profits they expect to extract by spending less money per prisoner.

For the last two years, the number of inmates held in state prisons has declined slightly, largely because the states are short on money. Crime, of course, has declined dramatically in the last 20 years, but that has never dampened the states’ appetites for warehousing ever more Black and brown bodies, and also some whites, and the federal prison system is still growing.

However, the Corrections Corporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag. It also makes, and hopes to make, a nice deal of money from the labor of the prisoners.

While the US has a big mouth when it comes to prison labor – slave labor – in China it is rather silent about what is going on in US jails and how many US companies benefit from this slave labor.

The attempted prison grab is also defensive in nature. If private companies can gain both ownership and management of enough prisons, they can set the prices without open-bid competition for prison services, creating a guaranteed cost-plus monopoly like that which exists between the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex.

If private companies are allowed to own the deeds to prisons, they are a big step closer to owning the people inside them.

For a better analogy on this, we must, by needs, go back and look at the American slave system, a thoroughly capitalist enterprise that reduced human beings to units of labor and sale.

The Corrections Corporation of America’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission read very much like the documents of a slave-trader.

Investors are warned that profits would go down if the demand for prisoners declines. That is, if the world’s largest police state shrinks, so does the corporate bottom line. Dangers to profitability include “relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws."

The corporation spells it out: “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."

For the Corrections Corporation of America, human freedom is a dirty word.

And, let no one doubt it, the same attitude prevails in the British prison companies and they, no doubt, are also behind the lobbying for more incarcerations in UK jails, not that we don't already have a huge amount of people in jails.

Yes, crime needs to be dealt with but it should not be or become the domain of private companies for private and corporate gain.

© 2013