The keep the federal budgets for prisons down.

The topic of using for-profit, or private, prisons at the federal and state levels is a topic that has come up quite often in the past few years. Many argue that private prisons are a cost savings measure that can be utilized to keep the federal budgets for prisons down. Others say that private prisons do not offer much savings in the long run and there are moral and ethical reasons to do away with them. The topic comes up again and in again in politics. During his campaign for president Bernie Sanders said, “It is wrong for corporations to be making profits from the incarcerations of their fellow Americans.” In August 2016, the Obama administration announced that the Federal Bureau of Prisons would no longer be utilizing private prisons for their inmates. This was after a report by the Department of Justice came out stating that private prisons compared poorly to the ones operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. However, this change was quickly reversed in February of 2017 by the new Trump administration. Many people, such as Sasha Volokh of the Washington Post, are supporters of private prisons. In an article from August 19, 2016 titled, “Don’t end federal private prisons,” she comes to the conclusion that the negative research about private prisons is not definitive, so federal prisons are not necessarily better over their private counterparts. She argues that private prisons actually offer an opportunity to create better prisons because they can be incentivized to do so. By making contracts with private prisons performance based there is the opportunity for more quality improvements. If the system moves to just federal prisons that opportunity may be lost. However, the reports and research that have been done do say that even though private prisons sometimes do show a modest increase in savings to this they cut back on staff costs and training. This means the prisons have a higher inmate-to-staff ratio and pay their staff less. This can lead to high turnover rate for staff and a higher number of assaults and incidents with inmates. So, the savings are modest to begin with and many times those savings come at the cost of staff and inmate safety. So not only do private prisons not deliver in the measures they promise, they can put staff and inmates at greater risk than federal prisons. Even before delving into the moral and ethical implications of using private prisons, it has been proven that they do not offer any benefit, fiscal or otherwise, over the use of federal prisons. Even if all private prisons were moved to an incentive based system like suggested by Volokh the major question about private prisons still remains: Should we base our justice system on organizations that benefit from mass incarceration? When it comes to private prisons, no matter how the contracts are structured, at the end of the day they are for profit businesses and the more people who are incarcerated, the most they stand to benefit. These businesses have a vested interest in people going to prison. The two major companies that run private prisons invest heavily in lobbying for people to go to prison on punitive and nonviolent charges and make political contribution to politicians who will increase the alliance on prisons. Time has taught us that putting people in prison and throwing away the key for every minor broken law is not the way to truly get justice. The steep penalties for the War on Drugs proved a failure to combat the use of illegal substances and more and more organizations are pushing for rehabilitation instead of incarcerations for people who commit nonviolent crimes.Our justice system also has other glaring problems that could be exasperated by the continued use of private prisons. One of the major issues is the racial disparity seen in our justice system. Overall, black men receive federal sentences that are, on average, 20% longer than white men who commit the same crimes. African-American males are also more often prosecuted for drug crimes. With these issues that are seeing more people incarcerated and racial discrepancies that leave people in prison longer, do we want to keep private prisons in that mix? The rallying cry for many politicians is that they are “tough on crime” however, the way that has translated so far in our justice system as not actually helped our crime rates at all.  People should receive equal justice for the crimes they commit. More and more studies are showing that job training and rehabilitation programs are better suited to getting people out of prison without recidivism. Prisons that are for profit businesses have no place in our justice system. The small benefits private prisons may offer come at the cost of staff and inmate safety. The main reason for profit prisons should not be utilized is because they are continually pushing for more and more people to be incarcerated. The system needs to be focused on justice, not punishment. Sources


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