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Private corporations that tout that they will cut costs if given the chance to profitize local jails and prisons, fail to mention they breach all lines of ethics and morals in order to do so.  One frequent cost-cutting measure is to employ fewer doctors and nurses. With a rapidly growing, aging, and diseased prison population confined to quarters usually built for fewer than half of what they house, that practice is a recipe for disaster.  Xavier Scullark-Johnson is a bitter example of this.

Johnson was a 27-year-old inmate at a Minnesota correctional facility who was only three months away from release. Mr. Johnson routinely suffered from seizures and was prescribed an anti-seizure medication, Dilantin, to keep him from fatally seizing to death. One night in June 2010 Johnson began suffering a severe seizure episode and an on-call doctor ordered an ambulance team dispatched to the prison. When the ambulance arrived, the prison nurse, Denise L. Garin, refused to allow them to transport Mr. Johnson to the hospital, citing “protocol.” Nurse Garin explained this was in an effort to “cut costs.” Xavier Scullark-Johnson was pronounced dead less than two hours after the ambulance was forced to leave, on the floor of his cell, curled up in the fetal position, soaked in his own urine.  But hey, for-profit medical contractor Corizon saved some money! 
 Things do not run more efficiently in privately contracted prisons, either. In order to maximize profits many maintenance issues go unfixed, there are too many inmates and the few guards they employ are undertrained and underpaid.  This combustible mix leads to explosions like Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, which the state contracts out to greedy for-profit prison contractor GEO to run, where children as young as 13 are held. The ACLU, in conjunction with the Southern Poverty Law Center, began an investigation into claims of systemic abuses in 2010. A Department of Justice report released in April 2012 found:

  • Guards having sex with young inmates (among the worst in the nation).
  • Poorly trained guards savagely beating inmates and relying on pepper spray as a first response.
  • Guards with gang affiliations.
  • The prison showed “deliberate indifference” to inmates' possession of knives and other homemade weapons used to attack and/or rape other inmates.

In March 2012 a federal judge declared that GEO created “a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world,” and allowed “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.” GEO passed the buck to previous for-profit contractor, Cornell Companies. There have been no apologies for making money off of the terrors that occurred. That might cut into the$284 million profit GEO brought home in 2011. The ACLU and SPLC are investigating other GEO-contracted prisons where there are allegations of abuse as well as high suicide rates.

The for-profit prison corporations have been taking their act on the road, (perhaps that’s why they can’t clean up the deplorable conditions at their facilities?) enriching legislators and screaming about saving taxpayers money along the way. Only they’re wrong (or they’re lying). They don’t save taxpayers money.  

There is well documented research by the Arizona auditor general that even after private corporations cut almost every imaginable corner for inmates, offered significantly less pay and benefits for guards, and had the most profitable inmates heading in their gates, operating costs were still nearly equal to state-run facilities. In fact, it might actually be more expensive to house inmates in a for-profit prison. An exhaustive study by the University of Utah found “the value of moving to a privately managed system is questionable,” and the services provided to inmates and guard training was inferior. 

But this horse (dressage) and pony show gets even better. GEO Group has spent more than $1.3 million dollars in campaign contributions since 2006 in Florida alone and in 2010 they were one of the top 15 contributors to the Republican Party. People associated with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the top for-profit prison company in the nation, gave Arizona Governor Jan Brewer at least $60,000.

Putting profits before the health and welfare of human beings creates serious problems. The greed in the for-profit prison industry is pervasive. All for-profit prison corporations are in the very business of generating the greatest amount of profit by any means necessary. OUR tax dollars FUND the egregious abuses suffered at facilities like Walnut Youth Grove. The men and women of Mississippi—the PARENTS of those children—PAID for the mistreatment they endured.

For-profit prison corporations are in it for the money. Period. The only way they can make money is to ensure they have a steady stream of inmates lining up outside the doors and heightened sentencing laws—they actually demand the government that they contract with maintain a 90 percent occupancy rate! The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country in the world (yes, this even includes Russia and China). What does that say about us a nation? Why are we continuing to focus on a system of retribution instead of rehabilitation?

Because rehabilitation won’t enrich greedy CEOs and shareholders, or get politicians reelected.

Do we want to live in a society where for-profit businesses get the elected representatives of the People to create laws that put more people behind their prison walls for longer periods of time, just so they can enrich themselves, or do we want to live in a society where our elected representatives actually try to help find real solutions to the catalysts of crime so we can all feel safer and more secure and families have an opportunity to thrive and prosper?

Now ask yourself, Do We Want Corporate Socialism, Or Social Programs That Benefit Us All? »


Originally posted to elizabethawilke on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:46 AM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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