This is a story that would be unbelievable if the government weren’t so consistently blind and idiotic in its everyday dealings. Privately owned state prisons have begun suing states for millions of dollars because they aren’t filled to capacity with inmates. Yes, you read that right.
Way back when we were covering Ron Paul’s 32 Questions, both John Odermatt and I touched on the topic of the private prison system and its lobbyists as a reason that the US drug war would continue. In a nutshell, there was far too much money tied up in the industry of prisoners to eradicate the war on drugs. A very large percentage of the prison population (of which the US has the largest in the world) would dry up if these absurd drug arrests and minimum sentences went the way of the dodo. From my earlier article:
Most state prisons are run by private companies who have very deep pockets and powerful lobbyists. They create jobs for local economies and also take down the unemployment statistics as people in jail don’t count on the rolls. However, it’s a very expensive way to lower unemployment. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons. A prisoner there costs the state $45,006 a year. That’s quite a salary.
While federally there is still a war on drugs, state legislatures have begun to pass their own laws regarding possession and use of drugs, which are far more humane, constitutional and reasonable. This is impacting “Big Prison’s” business, and they aren’t happy.
(Advocacy Group) In the Public Interest has reviewed more than 60 contracts between private prison companies and state and local governments across the country, and found language mentioning “quotas” for prisoners in nearly two-thirds of those contracts reviewed. Those quotas can range from a mandatory occupancy of, for example, 70 percent occupancy in California to up to 100 percent in some prisons in Arizona. (Source)
100% occupancy? That’s going to require a lot of fraudulent arrests to achieve.
As if we needed any more reasons to distrust the state and its militarized fighting force dubbed the police, we now have to take into account that they may very well start issuing arrest quotas on top of those pesky ticket quotas that no one likes to talk about. If the state starts paying out millions for breaching these insane contracts (the state is NOT good at business, let us remind ourselves again and again), are they more likely to continue to bleed cash, or go after the easily targeted citizens? I know which way I would bet.
There is nothing wrong with private industry running prisons – as always, I prefer privatization of virtually everything. The state governments who agree to these deals are the ones on the hook. There is no rationale for making this type of business move – it reeks of crony capitalism.
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