Private Prison Company to Demand 90% Occupancy By Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov 19 February 12
[excerpted] The nation's largest private prison company is offering cash-strapped state governments to buy up their penitentiaries and manage convicted criminals at a cost-savings. But there's a catch…the states must guarantee that are there are enough prisoners to ensure that the venture is profitable to the company.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has reached out to 48 states as part of a $250 million plan to own existing prisons and manage their operations. But in return CCA wants a 20-year contract and assurances that the state will keep the prisons at least 90% full..."
Read the article at the link above.
Private corrections create incentives for incarceration and there are documented cases where judges have incarcerated young people because of kickbacks from the detention centers. Private prisons are less transparent than public facilities, thereby allowing more abuses to occur.
Here are my thoughts about the US penal system, taken from my book on childhood, Governing Childhood: Biopolitical Strategies of....
Once children enter the juvenile court system, particularly, minority and poor children, they are in danger of being sentenced to the total institutions of juvenile “boot-camps.” Juvenile offenders often are secured in privatized facilities such as “boot-camps” where they are subject to remediation, often through strict disciplines and corporeal punishment, as illustrated by the recent beating death of a Florida boy at the hands of his bootcamp “instructors” (Goddard). In 2007 the following New York Times article described conditions within a Texas juvenile detention center:
AUSTIN, Tex. — Juvenile detainees as young as 13 years old slept on filthy mats in dormitories with broken, overflowing toilets and feces smeared on the walls. Denied outside recreation for weeks at a time, they ate bug-infested food, did school work that consisted of little more than crossword puzzles and defecated in bags. After months of glowing state reports, the squalid conditions were disclosed on Oct. 1 by state inspectors at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte. They are another sign of the deep disarray of the Texas Youth Commission, the nation’s second-largest, after Florida’s, and most troubled juvenile corrections agency. (Moore “Troubles Mount”)
As illustrated by this article, bootcamps re-invent the abusive horrors of earlier nineteenth and early twentieth century detention institutions for young people.
Society contains its contradictions through incarceration. As Orlando Patterson reports
America has more than two million citizens behind bars, the highest absolute and per capita rate of incarceration in the world. Black Americans, a mere 13 percent of the population, constitute half of this country’s prisoners. A tenth of all Black men between ages 20 and 35 are in jail or prison; Blacks are incarcerated at over eight times the white rate.
The public white imagination, conditioned by at least two centuries of racist propaganda, conceives this tragedy as deriving from either the inborn deficiencies or the culture of poverty (supposedly) afflicting Black America.
The role of political economy (e.g., high unemployment and poverty) in driving criminality, criminalization, and sentencing is swept aside by the compelling economic incentives of the prison-industrial complex as an entire nexus of private and public apparatuses have converged to exploit the bodies and labor of incarcerated prisoners. Dissent exists, as illustrated by a 2007 report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which describes a school-to-prison pipeline that begins with underfunded and neglected schools but also includes “overzealous” discipline policies that remove students from school and rely on police officers to dispense punishment through the criminal justice system, blurring discipline and punishment (J. Johnson). “No tolerance,” “zero tolerance” “public safety” campaigns have profited privatized juvenile detention facilities, overwhelming dissenting voices.
Privately owned and operated institutions have vested economic interests in juvenile incarceration as do privately run prisons for adult populations. Poor rural areas rely on these institutions to provide work for otherwise unemployed citizens, dampening public outrage against the institutionalization of children in for-profit punishment centers. In 2009 the U.S. media began publicizing reports that approximately 2,000 juveniles had been sentenced to detention centers by judges who received “kickbacks” exceeding $2.6 million (Pilkington). The pervasiveness of fraudulent decision-making in the juvenile justice system has not yet been investigated. Still, media publicity of the sickeningly abusive environments of juvenile detention centers and bootcamps may eventually encourage states to adopt more pastoral approaches toward their “risky” children (e.g., see Moore “Missouri System”).
Ironically, the cultural preoccupation with disadvantaged youths, gang violence, and street crimes obscures the crimes that most adversely impact the economic vitality of the nation. Just as the biopolitical statistics on bullying elide the less overt (i.e., physical) forms of bullying found among affluent students, so also do the biopolitical representations of the precursors of adult crimes in disadvantaged youths obscure the impact of white collar crime. In 1949 Edwin Sutherland defined white collar crime as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation" (9). White collar crimes range from outright fraud and embezzlement to heath and environmental crimes perpetrated by businesses and corporate entities. The Savings and Loan disasters of the 1980s, Enron and Waste Management accounting scandals in the 1990s, and the recent Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme illustrate white collar crimes as does Peanut Corporation of America’s knowing distribution of peanut products contaminated with salmonella. An entire genre of research documents that white collar crimes destroy more lives and produce more economic costs to the nation than street crime, yet media outrage occurs only in the immediate aftermath of publicity about some recent instance. Yet, in contrast with street crime, no widespread efforts are made to reduce white collar crime by governing the social morality and business ethics of American’s affluent children in k-12 education...