WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department recently announced that it is
ending its relationship with private prison companies, citing poor results in safety,
services and affordability. The new inspector general's report found that contract
facilities were inferior to government-run ones.
According to an investigation into private prisons, reported
by an Aug. 27 My Palm Beach Post
article, more contraband managed to get inside private prisons, including
cell phones, tobacco and weapons. There were also more incidents of violence and
greater problems with inmate discipline, as well as more frequent lockdowns,
which are a sign of security problems.
“The review determined that the government does a better job
than private vendors of providing services such as job training and education —
key elements in reducing recidivism,” a Sept. 2 Tampa Bay Times article also
said. “If privatizing corrections doesn't adequately protect inmates and staff,
provides fewer rehabilitative services and doesn't save money, it's hard to
find any public benefit to outsourcing.”
For once, the U.S. Justice Department is getting some support
for its recommendations of rejecting privatization.
“It's fundamentally wrong to privatize this function of
government,” an Aug. 31 Orlando Sentinel article said. “A handful of private
companies have gained disproportionate power and influence in shaping criminal
justice policy, often at odds with what's in the public interest. The state
benefits when recidivism is low; the opposite is true for for-profit prisons.
Their financial success is dependent on individuals being incarcerated and
The bottom line is that many Florida officials believe the
state should follow the Justice Department’s lead in giving private prisons the
“As The Post’s Pat Beall documented in a comprehensive
series in 2013, private management of state, as well as federal, prisons
has been a failure on many counts,” the Aug. 27 My Palm Beach Post article said. “Prisoners are at greater risk of
assault. And frequently, private prison management doesn’t even fulfill its
biggest promise: saving taxpayer dollars.”
The article also explained that Deputy U.S. Attorney General
Sally Yates argues that privately managed federal prisons do not provide the
same level of correctional services as government institutions, and the private
prisons in Florida are just as guilty of these infractions.
“It is high time to rein in the rest of the system. It is
abundantly clear that the goals of making a profit and providing a safe and secure
environment — for prisoners and guards alike — are in irreconcilable conflict,”
the Orlando Sentinel article said. “We wonder if this industry would even exist
were it not for the huge payouts it makes to lobbyists and political campaigns.”
Of course, the general consensus is that removing privatization
will not happen overnight. Their solution is to substantially reduce the scope
of contracts with private prisons and eventually phase them out.