Slog

Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Numbers Are In: For-Profit Prisons Are Bad for Everybody, Including the Economies They Promised to Improve

Posted by on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 12:12 PM

To restate the obvious: For-profit prisons are a terrible idea.

We already know they're terrible for inmates (whose housing, food, health care, and "security" are controlled, 24 hours a day, by businesses that make money by cutting corners) and those inmates' families and communities.

For-profit prisons are also bad for investors. Here's a representative tidbit from a recent article on dailyfinance.com:

What's a $74 billion industry with a potential customer pool of 1.6 million users, a monthly membership cost of $1,500, and a retention rate that would leave Sirius XM or Netflix drooling? The answer: private prisons. However, a critical look at the failings and financial fudging of these corporations reveals several reasons why this sector is destined for destruction.

And they're bad for local economies. Prison privateers like to talk (or pay other people to talk) about how small, economically depressed towns can benefit from for-profit prisons. That's the only reason legislators allow them—their constituents want jobs, for-profit prisons equal jobs, and jobs equal economic recovery. Right?

Nope.

Researchers at Washington State University ran the numbers and found out this rhetoric was completely false.

Proponents of privatization anticipate positive economic outcomes - lower costs to taxpayers, similar or improved service delivery and improved salary and working conditions. But Hooks and fellow researchers Clayton Mosher, WSU associate professor of sociology, and Shaun Genter, a WSU alumnus teaching sociology at Tacoma Community College, found many of the jobs promised by private prisons simply never materialized.

"Privatization of prison systems places downward pressure on staffing, pay and benefits for all prisons in the state, including those that have yet to be privatized,” Hooks said. "As a consequence, prisons not only fail to help, but appear to harm employment levels in their host communities.”

The researchers also determined that private prisons are less likely to contribute to employment stability than publicly run prisons because of their comparatively high turnover rate, which the researchers believe is the result of the relatively low wages paid by private prison operators.

The authors write that available data from the U.S. Department of Labor indicate the median annual wage for correctional officers employed by the federal government was $50,830, compared with $38,850 for officers employed by state governments and $37,510 for those employed by local governments. In contrast, officers employed in privately operated prisons earned a median salary of $28,790.

"Nationally, the most recent estimates of annual employee turnover in private prisons is 52 percent, compared to between 12 and 25 percent in public prisons,” said Hooks. "In Texas, for instance, a state senate committee found annual staff turnover rates of 90 percent in private prisons, compared to 24 percent among state-employed correctional officers.”

Hooks said one of the ironies of the prison expansion boom of the 1980s and 1990s is that state resources used to fund prison growth were often diverted from education, including state supported community colleges serving rural communities.

So. For-profit prisons are bad for everyone: their inmates, their investors, their employees, and the rest of us.

Just in case anyone—like certain persistant "business interests" in Florida—was confused about that.

 

Comments (12) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
13
nativedoctor101@live.com MERUJA OWO... NIGERIAN SCAM ARTIST,,,BEWARE,,, USER
Doris or
goes by jannet ( post on this forum) is a scam artist who advertises
for this
nigerian scam artist NATIVEDOCTOR101@LIVE.COM.. .. Meruja owo
scammed me for
650$ canadian dollars. HE IS A SCAM ARTIST FROM NIGERIA. MERUJA
OWO will ask you
to send him money western union and than he will haggle you for
more and more
money and he is fake with no results. HE IS A SCAM BEWARE,, HE IS
BEING
INVESTIGATED FOR FRAUD AND WILL BE GOING TO JAIL. DO NOT USE THIS MAN BC
HE WILL
STEAL YOU MONEY!
Posted by susan12 on February 1, 2013 at 12:27 AM · Report this
12
nativedoctor101@live.com MERUJA OWO... NIGERIAN SCAM ARTIST,,,BEWARE,,, USER
Doris or
goes by jannet ( post on this forum) is a scam artist who advertises
for this
nigerian scam artist NATIVEDOCTOR101@LIVE.COM.. .. Meruja owo
scammed me for
650$ canadian dollars. HE IS A SCAM ARTIST FROM NIGERIA. MERUJA
OWO will ask you
to send him money western union and than he will haggle you for
more and more
money and he is fake with no results. HE IS A SCAM BEWARE,, HE IS
BEING
INVESTIGATED FOR FRAUD AND WILL BE GOING TO JAIL. DO NOT USE THIS MAN BC
HE WILL
STEAL YOU MONEY!
Posted by susan12 on February 1, 2013 at 12:24 AM · Report this
11
I'm really racking my brains for an example of privatization from the last forty years that didn't result in higher costs and inferior service for the public (i.e. "the customer.")
Posted by Proteus on January 29, 2013 at 7:06 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 10
@5,

I'm sure they've done everything they can to lower "fixed" costs as well. I've seen some photos of privatized prisons down south where the inmates sleep in bunk beds, maybe 20 to a room. Surely that's not a recipe for disaster.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 29, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 9
@8

I'd tend to react that way to. But then I remember that all the wingnuts I know have this ideology that says the free market is the solution to every problem, large or small, local or national.

I wasn't too thrilled with state run liquor stores, and I can think of a lot of my favorite things that I don't want nationalized. But not the fire department. Not the police.

It really depends. You have to look at the facts on the ground and adapt a solution that works. If conditions change, adapt to that. Getting the Internet off the ground required massive state subsidy and direction, but now I'd mostly like the government to butt out of cyberspace. Until we need the governemnt.

Hedgehogs and foxes, you know.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on January 29, 2013 at 2:57 PM · Report this
California Kid 8
I think this can be said for almost any privatization of government services, Education, law enforcement, transportation. Increased costs and lower services while a few get rich
Posted by California Kid on January 29, 2013 at 1:24 PM · Report this
treacle 7
""Privatization [...] places downward pressure on staffing, pay and benefits for all"

This is the secret scandal of privatization economics. This is one of the major campaigns in the ongoing capitalist class war.
Posted by treacle on January 29, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
Zebes 6
"Hurp durp. Who cares about the living conditions of inmates? They're prisoners and therefore they're inherently evil and they deserve it! They deserve it! A friend of mine once had his car broken into and a wallet of CDs stolen, I'm very tough on crime and I tell it like it is!"
Posted by Zebes http://www.badrap.org/rescue/index.html on January 29, 2013 at 1:16 PM · Report this
treacle 5
"Privatization [...] places downward pressure on staffing, pay and benefits"

This is economics 201. Given fixed costs (the building, electricity, water, sewage, etc.) and variable costs (inmate food, supplies, guard salaries)... the only way to make a profit is to reduce the variable costs... So lowering salaries to the lowest possible level is #1 on the list, well, along with lowering the quality of inmate food of course, but fuck them anyway, right?

This, of course, ensures that we have low-quality guarding going on, and it opens a huge incentive for personal corruption.

The problem with this blinkered privatization of everything... --the idea that it is some sort of financial/market panacea--... is that the quality diminishes in order to secure a profit for the owners.

If the owner isn't worried about making a profit.. then the correct resources can be allocated.

This is true for urban transit systems, and the post office, and many other things where competition doesn't make any sense at all.
Posted by treacle on January 29, 2013 at 1:13 PM · Report this
3
@1, You forgot also the need to keep poor people poor by locking them up for offenses that the middle-class would get a warning for. (Continual persecution for non-violent drug-users).

The "Titans" of Wall Street have robbed the country of billions of dollars and yet not a single one has seen the inside of a for-profit prison as an inmate.

http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/08/pr…

But, really, as discussed in another thread, it is because poor people don't have middle-class values for ownership and hard-work. Hell. Locking them up is probably doing them a favor!
Posted by randoma on January 29, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 2
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/us/13j…

Lets not forget that for profit prisons can and have lead to corruption at the expense of the "criminal."
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 29, 2013 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 1
But if we don't lock up lots of people, how will we maintain the Police State and continue to live in Fear?
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 29, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.
Advertisement

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy