It’s not to keep us safe.
Prisons aren’t really a way to keep crime rates down. More than ten times as many people are being incarcerated than 50 years ago, but the effect on crime is virtually nothing. And that is primarily because of private prisons. State-run prisons are actually helpful, but since these are in such short supply when compared to private ones, their effect is minuscule.
It all started in the ’80s due to the war on drugs. This meant that prisons were bursting with inmates and states were struggling to keep up. And that’s when the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) stepped in. They proposed a business model to the state that would allow them to save money on their prison expenditure. Now, this may seem like selling cars, real estate or other articles, and hence may seem wrong, and even impossible; but it’s all happening. In fact, Tom Beasley, the co-founder of CCA once said,
You just sell [prisons] like you were selling cars or real estate or hamburgers.
However, this did nothing to reduce the costs of prisons. Citizens still have to pay just as much as taxes for private prisons, in comparison to government prisons.
Read also: Is Juvenile The Right Way To Go?
The CCA is in it for the money. That’s already been established. But let’s come to the extent they go to for this money.
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Private prisons tend to hand out twice as many infractions as government ones. These lengthen a prisoner’s time in jail and hence keep the prisons earning money.
They also tend to sneak in occupancy clauses into their contracts. If states fail to meet this percentage, they can be fined for up to three billion dollars. This happened with Arizona in 2015 when they failed to meet their 97% occupancy rate. This, in turn, forced them to keep prisoners in for longer than they had to since they couldn’t afford to pay another fine.
And that is why the state needs prisons. It’s not to keep crime rates down or to keep its citizens safe, it’s because they are short of money. This cash crunch forces them to keep prisons full. And that’s why you need prisons too. If the state has to pay a fine, its only option is to turn to the good-willed, tax-paying citizens.
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