Note: Donald Trump rescinded an Obama era executive order that phased out the use of private contractors to run federal prisons. Beltway Bulletin’s Cam Hasbrouck took on this issue in his column.
Prison – It probably isn’t something you think about very often, unless you’re a die-hard fan of Orange is the New Black or The Shawshank Redemption (and even that is more Hollywood than prison).
The incarceration industry loves this. Since prison is something that we don’t think about, and that we often try to avoid, the industry as a whole is able to make pretty drastic changes without anybody paying much attention. Over the last three decades, that’s exactly what has happened. Our nation’s prison system has evolved into a hugely flawed industry that focuses more on making money than actual public welfare.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. First, did you know that prisons aren’t strictly government run? Instead, the government has partnered with private companies to make the prison industry a business – and quite a large one. According to BBC, private prisons now hold 12 percent of federally incarcerated inmates, pulling billions of dollars per year without you knowing of their existence.
So how did all of this happen? Our marriage with private prisons began in 1983 when a group of men came together with a pretty radical idea. They imagined making money off of America’s prisoners, just like McDonald’s makes money off of fast food. You could sell it, just “like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers,” one of them told Inc. Magazine. Those men came together to create the Corrections Corporation of America, which has developed into one of the nation’s leading private-prison corporations.
So, what is it about corporate-run prisons that are so terrible? On the surface, the idea may not sound bad. People have found ways to make money off of everything, so why shouldn’t we let them profit off of prison? Well, when you look into the heart of the prison industry, it’s easy to see that there are some inherent issues that make the industry one of our nation’s most flawed, illogical, and flat-out immoral industries. Have a listen: