The Trump Administration’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a one paragraph memo to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Thursday, reversed an Obama administration directive to phase out and ultimately end private prison corporations’ partnership with the federal government. The Federal Bureau of Prisons contracts with the private prisons to house inmates largely convicted of immigration violations. “The 14 private prisons currently contracted by the federal government almost exclusively incarcerate low-risk inmates who were convicted of immigration offenses. The prisons house around 22,000 people at an annual cost of $600m,” writes The Guardian.
The move by Sessions came less than a year after the Justice Department concluded, as a result of an extensive investigation, the private prisons were unsafe, understaffed, overpopulated, and often placed prisoners in punitive solitary confinement, simply because the prison was overpopulated.
Their use is not without controversy and justifiable objections. The Orlando Sentinal explains the conflict of interests inherent in using private companies to punish prisoners convicted in the public’s judicial system. “Many public agencies use for-profit vendors, and rightly so,” meaning it’s one thing to use a wholesale food supplier to supply the prison’s cafeteria. “But incarcerating and rehabilitating a human being is not the same as delivering office paper,” writes the Sentinal. “In the case of criminal justice, the profit motive creates incentives,” to jail more prisoners by lobbying legislators to pass tougher penalties for laws, thereby bringing in more prisoners and keeping them in prison for longer jail sentences.
Those “values,” writes the Sentinal, “conflict with the public interest” and lead to the industry known as the Prison Industrial Complex, an industry which exists only if it has inmates to house. “The States should follow the lead of the Department of Justice and phase out private prisons,” concludes Orlando’s most influential newspaper.
In August, the Obama administration notified the private prisons their services would no longer be needed going forward. As a result, the nation’s largest prison corporations suffered financial losses when their stocks sank and were devalued, with one company losing over fifty percent of it’s share value. All that changed after Trump was elected, writes Forbes.
As would be expected, once the Trump administration cleared the way for the prisons to continue operations unimpeded, stocks of the private prison corporations soared. “In August 2016, less than an hour after the news broke, shares of Geo Group, Inc. ($GEO) and Corecivic (formerly known as, Corrections Corp. Of America) ($CXW) imploded over -35%, and -25% respectively. CoreCivic Inc. and Geo Group Inc., are some of the largest for-profit prison operators in the country. Since the election, both stocks have surged on renewed hopes the order would be rescinded. Geo Group hit a new record high and shareholders of both stocks are very happy the long term contracts are still in place.
Not only do the private corporations receive public funds with very little oversight in return but they now say they’ll only provide incarceration services if the prisons can run at near capacity. In other words, the prison corporations demand a steady stream of inmates to keep the prisons running at peak capacity. Keeping up with the failed war on drugs is one way to feed the industry the commodity of prisoners. One source describes the issues;
All the big private prison companies—CCA, GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation—try to include occupancy requirements in their contracts, according to the report. States with the highest occupancy requirements include Arizona (three prison contracts with 100 percent occupancy guarantees), Oklahoma (three contracts with 98 percent occupancy guarantees), and Virginia (one contract with a 95 percent occupancy guarantee). At the same time, private prison companies have supported and helped write “three-strike” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws that drive up prison populations. Their livelihoods depend on towns, cities, and states sending more people to prison and keeping them there.
It is much easier to walk out on the street corner and shakedown a teenager who may have an illegal plant in his pocket than it is to examine the evidence in a rape or murder case. The so-called “Private” Prisons know this and have subsequently found their niche in this immoral war on drugs.
The term Private Prison is a farce from the get-go.
A truly Private prison would not be solely funded by taxpayer dollars. These Private prisons are nothing more than a fascist mixture of state and corporate, completely dependent upon the extortion factor of the state, i.e., taxation, as a means of their corporate sustenance.
A truly Private prison would have a negative incentive to boost its population for the simple fact that it is particularly expensive to house inmates. On the contrary, these fascist, or more aptly, corporatist prisons contractually require people to break the law!
It’s unclear, given the fact all the private prisons affected incarcerate illegal immigrants if the policy change is any indicator the Trump administration is preparing for mass deportations as some critics charge. Trump promised, during his campaign for presidency, to deport illegals, even those with family ties in the states, and force them to apply for readmission to the country.
But speculation already exists and is taking place in the stock market already as a result of Trump’s election as president. According to CBS News, “Mr. Trump’s directive to crack down on illegal immigration has led analysts to predict big profits in 2017 for major private prisons companies such as CoreCivic and Geo, due to increased demand for facilities. In fact, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Tobey Sommer picked CoreCivic among one of his best investment picks for the year.”
Article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.