Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Private Prisons: The More Americans They Put Behind Bars The More Money They Make

Michael Snyder
Activist Post

How would you describe an industry that wants to put more Americans in prison and keep them there longer so that it can make more money? In America today, approximately 130,000 people are locked up in private prisons that are being run by for-profit companies, and that number is growing very rapidly.

Overall, the U.S. has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has 5 percent of the total global population. The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the entire globe by far, and no nation in the history of the world has ever locked up more of its own citizens than we have. Are we really such a cesspool of filth and decay that we need to lock up so many of our own people? Or are there some other factors at work? Could part of the problem be that we have allowed companies to lock up men and women in cages for profit?

The two largest private prison companies combined to bring in close to $3,000,000,000 in revenue in 2010, and the largest private prison companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade. Putting Americans behind bars has become very big business, and those companies have been given a perverse incentive to push for even more Americans to be locked up. It is a system that is absolutely teeming with corruption, and it is going to get a lot worse unless someone does something about it.

One of the keys to success in the private prison business it to get politicians to vote your way. That is why the big private prison companies spend so much money on lobbying and campaign contributions.

The following is an excerpt from a report put out by the Justice Policy Institute entitled "Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies"...
For-profit private prison companies primarily use three strategies to influence policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships, networks, and associations. 
Over the years, these political strategies have allowed private prison companies to promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration and thus greater profit margins for their company. In particular, private prison companies have had either influence over or helped to draft model legislation such as "three-strikes" and "truth-in-sentencing" laws, both of which have driven up incarceration rates and ultimately created more opportunities for private prison companies to bid on contracts to increase revenues.
If you can believe it, three of the largest private prison companies have spent approximately $45,000,000 combined on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.

Would they be spending so much money if those companies did not believe that it was getting results?

Just look at what has happened to the U.S. prison population over the past several decades. Prior to 1980, there were virtually no private prisons in the United States. But since that time, we have seen the overall prison population and the private prison population absolutely explode.

For example, between 1990 and 2009 the number of Americans in private prisons grew by about 1600 percent.

Overall, the U.S. prison population more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2007.

So something has definitely changed.

Not that it is wrong to put people in prison when they commit crimes. Of course not. And right now violent crime is rapidly rising in many of our largest cities. When people commit violent crimes they need to be removed from the streets.

But when you put those criminals into the hands of private companies that are just in it to make a buck, the potential for abuse is enormous.

For example, when auditors visited one private prison in Texas, they "got so much fecal matter on their shoes they had to wipe their feet on the grass outside."

The prisoners were literally living in their own manure.

How would you feel if a member of your own family was locked up in such a facility?

And the truth is that there seem to be endless stories of abuse in private prisons. One private prison company reportedly charges inmates $5.00 a minute to make phone calls but only pays them $1.00 a day to work...
Last year the Corrections Corporation of America(CCA), the nation’s largest private prison company, received $74 million of taxpayers’ money to run immigration detention centers. Their largest facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, receives $200 a night for each of the 2,000 detainees it holds, and rakes in yearly profits between $35 million and $50 million. 
Prisoners held in this remote facility depend on the prison’s phones to communicate with their lawyers and loved ones. Exploiting inmates’ need, CCA charges detainees here $5 per minute to make phone calls. Yet the prison only pays inmates who work at the facility $1 a day. At that rate, it would take five days to pay for just one minute.
Speaking of work, private prisons have found that exploiting their inmates as a source of slave labor can be extraordinarily profitable. Today, private prisons are stealing jobs from ordinary American workers in a whole host of industries. The following is from an article by Vicky Pelaez...
According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.
And many of the largest corporations in America have rushed in to take advantage of this pool of very cheap slave labor. Just check out some of the big names that have been exploiting prison labor...
At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.
But of course some of the biggest profits for private prisons come from detaining young people. Today, private prison companies operate more than 50 percent of all "youth correctional facilities" in the United States.

And sometimes judges have even been bribed by these companies to sentence kids to very harsh sentences and to send them to their facilities. 

The following is from a report about two judges in Pennsylvania that were recently convicted for taking money to send kids to private prisons...
Michael Conahan, a former jurist in Luzerne County, was sentenced on Friday to 210 months in custody by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik II. Conahan was also ordered to pay $874,000 in restitution. [...] As Main Justice reported in August, Ciavarella, former president judge of the Court of Common Pleas and former judge of the Juvenile Court for Luzerne County, was sentenced to 28 years in prison and ordered to make restitution of $965,930. [...] 
Conahan’s role in the “cash for kids” scheme was to order the closing of a county-run detention center, clearing the way for Ciavarella, once known as a strict “law and order” judge, to send young offenders to private facilities. This arrangement worked out well for Ciavarella and Conahan, as well as the builder of the facilities and a developer, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges. 
The arrangement didn’t work out so well for the young offenders, some of them sent away for offenses that were little more than pranks and would have merited probation, or perhaps just scoldings, if the judges had tried to live up to their oaths.
Are you starting to see why private prisons are such a problem?

Hundreds of kids had their lives permanently altered by those corrupt judges.

When you allow people to make money by locking other people up in cages, you are just asking for trouble.

The more Americans they put behind bars, the more money these private prisons make. It is a system that needs to be brought to an end.

So what do you think?

Do you believe that private prisons are a good idea or a bad idea?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below...

World's Prison Capital is Also #1 in For-Profit Prisons

This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.


This article may be re-posted in full with attribution.


If you enjoy our work, please donate to keep our website going.


Anonymous said...

American for-profit corporate prisons = Soviet/Bolshevik gulags and labor camps = National Socialist forced labor concentration camps(KZ's).

All are examples of how those in power will find any way possible to profit from imprisoning their own or other peoples.

Ironically of those 3 examples it is the National Socialists that may actually have the most moral 'wiggle room' as far as forced labor(and only the labor) is concerned as they actually had a worker shortage as such that needed filled to meet war needs.

The Bolsheviks on the other hand had 180,000,000 citizens - many of which were still unemployed after large portions of Russian industry were destroyed during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917/18 - they could have paid to work as "regular" jobs(as the Germans did) but chose instead to find excuses to round people up for forced labor camps to make it cheaper(and use as "re-education" systems).

Many if not most American prisons today are becoming no different, many have businesses run out of them using the prison inmates as slave labor for pennies a day, while the corporations that own them take in piles of money from the government for their "care" in addition to the business profits they take in off their cheap labor.

After the conclusion of WWII the Soviets either executed or imprisoned for 25 years "hard labor" at least a million of their own soldiers that had been "liberated" from German POW camps because they were deemed "traitors" for having been captured by the enemy('death before dishonor').

It wouldn't surprise me if another major war kicks off soon that some of those supposed "FEMA camps" that are seemingly ready and waiting are used to round up American military vets(already considered a potential security threat) and put them to work.

Human imprisonment and slavery has always been far too profitable to be completely defeated, those with the resources at their disposal just find ways to make it "legal" to do it and continue making money from it one way or another.

Those deemed to be threats to "national security" in some way are always the preferred victims as there is less likely to be public outrage over it("they're traitors, screw them they deserve it").

Private corporations however typically have a much larger "target demographic" for that sort of thing compared to governments that need to maintain at least good enough PR to appear to have significant public support and thus maintain perceived authority.

With corporations subverting the American government so much these days and the current administration moving towards legalizing murdering their own citizens already I can only imagine where the limits of depravity will be set.

Some day in the future there may be the history of the U.S.(S.)A's "Gulags", rivaling the U.S.S.R or National Socialist Germany.


Anonymous said...

In the soviet prison economy, just for refusing to feed the prison system by producing lists of people that could be arrested --otherwise known as, "failure to denounce," a person could be put away for ten years or more. People learned to live in fear of their own neighbors, dreading the knock at the door in the middle of the night. Sounds like, "if you see something, say something" carried to its logical extreme.

To those who say "it cannot happen here," I would say, kindly read The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. If the three-volume set proves too intimidating, an abridged version is available. The author himself apologized for its length, saying he had never had the whole manuscript in front of him because it had to be smuggled out of the country in bits and pieces, so don't feel bad if you don't want to read the long version.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The Reagan era jump started the privatization of everything. Playing to his ignorant labor hating base, Reagan got the ball rolling and it was mainly Republicans that got this industry up and running.

Democrats now embrace this industry as they seem to embrace all the right wing crap they used to oppose.

Private prisons hurt the inmates and their families, and they also destroy the value of work and labor that the rest of us seek to provide.

Anonymous said...

And many judges are heavily invested in these private enterprises causing their stock portfolios to bloom by sentencing many otherwise non-violent and trivial offenders to prison time.

The system is rigged against 'we the people'.

Anonymous said...

Republicans???Democrats??? You brainwashed people still fighting about that?? Don't you know THEY are all globalist/corporatist/elitist assholes who call themselves this or that so that WE will fight amongst ourselves instead of against THEM??? That's why they are able to take us over and imprison our kids for stupid stuff. That's why our list of laws are growing. We are fools!

Hugh said...

I stayed 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense.

While I was there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 17 months. One lad was in for armed Post Office robbery with a sawed off shotgun...his stay, 20 months.

When I went to the parole board after 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the panel members. Their response, "You must understand that yours was a very serious offense."

I laughed about that for 2 more years (as I still sat in prison), then wrote my book:

Shoulda Robbed a Bank

When I was in, the entire Federal Prison population was just over 28,000. Drug offenders made up 53% of that number. I see today that population has risen to over 218,000.

Prison is big business. It used to be called 'slavery.'

Anonymous said...

That's Right Brother.Divide And Conquer..That's What They've sheen Doing For Decades..Even Have Undermined The American Family With Juvenile Justice,Foster Care,Child Protection In The For Profit Corupt Judicial System That Makes It All Legal But In My View Incomprehensibly Immoral.
"let's return to family values"(President George Bush)
I had to ask myself as Far Back As 1995...."What Family?...As My Own Sister Was Blindly Ignorant And Supported The "Save The Children Kinship Campain" To Take Our Children And Re Structure Their Own Blending Of Familys Without Blood Lines And Family Ties And Brainwashing Them To Be Against Their Own Mothers And Or Fathers Who Are No More Than Villified By The Mainstreen Media And Imprisoned By Our System Of Injustice Or Cast Out In Solitary Exile So The Private Industry Of Corpatations,Lawyers,Judges,And Their Supporters Keep Us All
Divided And Keeping Out Children From Not Only The Truth But Living The Truth As Adults

LadyRavenhaire said...

I am kind of tired of hearing tirades against the former Soviet Union from people who read these accounts in US propaganda books. If it wasn't for the Soviet Union, women would never have had the right to vote in this country(women got the right to vote there in 1917), we would never get the 8 hour workday. Americans worked 12 hrs a day if male and 16 hours a day if they were women or children and worked 7 days a week, 364 days a year.We would never have education either. In fact, the former Soviet Union provided free education & medical care something we still don't have here in the US today. This happened because the upper class was afraid their would be revolution here, too & there heads would roll. As to gulags, my 2nd cousin was literally kidnapped off the streets in Italy by the Germans & sent to fight in Stalingrad. The only sentence he received was being sent home 1st class. A friend's father caught in battle did serve time at a gulag. He said it was more like a workcamp. The workday was capped at 8 hours a day if the person was able to work and the workers were free to order any books they wanted, sing, hang-out and even leave if they wanted, although there problem was where to go. This man worked 12 hours a day in Italy. He said he wanted to stay, but was forced to go home. He said being poor first in Italy, then in the US, he admitted to stealing to feed his family. Being in a Russian gulag, an Italian prisonn, where he was forced often to drink his piss for lack of water, and an Americab prison, but far nothing was worse.than the American prison.

charlie picco said...

i feel so sorry for ur country & for ur citizens.. but, i also see much worst things to come when the wonderful citizens will finally speak up & say, | WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH "

Anonymous said...

The brain dead masses do not care as long as their stomachs are full, their thirst is quenched, they have motorized locomotion, and their entertainment is available. It will take a immediate and ongoing absence of all of these things and more to finally awaken every one to the reality that we need to take control of our destiny and not have a few make the decisions for us and the rest of humanity. Until this happens, we will continue to suffer the consequences of the past and present.

Post a Comment