Monday, December 02, 2013

The price of privatizing the public commons

The 73 year old grandmother denied cancer medication and being clapped into solitary confinement for an entire month in a private prison for complaining about it, is just one story in the long and sorry annals of private prison abuse. We're unlikely to close this book any time soon. The Prison Industrial Complex has no incentive to change.
Though a court has not yet heard Lester’s case, the two prison companies in question already face a string of allegations that they abuse or neglect inmates. Because private prison companies must turn a profit, health care and quality of life are often sacrificed for the bottom line. Corizon is already handling lawsuits and investigations all over the country charging that the health care company ignored inmates’ calls for help, left sick inmates in soiled bedsheets without any food or water, and even let a man die because calling an ambulance was deemed too expensive.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), meanwhile, was recently held in contempt for understaffing prisons, and a few months earlier paid $600,000 to settle another lawsuit over inmate abuse. The extremely profitable company has also been caught overcrowding prisons to the point that many inmates sleep on the floor, using gangs to police facilities.
CCA's revenue is  about 1.736 billion. It only employed 16,750 people as of 2011. A paltry fine of $600K is just another cost efficiency in the ledgers. I have no idea if private prisons are saving the government money in incarceration costs. But even if it is cost effective in dollars, it comes at the price of our humanity and our shared obligations. A civil society treats its prisoners humanely. [image via]

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