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Opinion: Private Prisons Should be Abolished

Private prisons have come under fire in recent years for several reasons. Read about the issues that exist and an argument for why private prisons should be abolished.

What are Private Prisons? What do they look like?

Private prisons are prisons owned by private companies. These companies that own the prisons depend on the incarceration of people, and profit off of their incarceration. Their entire business model is solely dependent on how many individuals are put into prisons and how long their sentences are. The first private prison was founded in Tennessee in 1984, and since then, private prisons have seen a 1,600% increase from 1990 to 2005 in the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that for-profit companies were responsible for about seven percent of state prisoners and 18 percent of federal prisoners in 2015.

What is the difference between a public and private prison?

Public prisons are not privately funded by any companies. They are paid for by tax dollars and government spending. Public prisons are owned and operated by the local, federal and/or state governments and can therefore control who they lock up, when they lock them up and where they want to send them. They also have the power to release inmates early. With funding from tax dollars, public prisons have to legally report certain information about the prisons, like how they are being run, how many prisoners they currently are holding and how the taxpayers’ money is being spent.

In contrast, private prisons are not required to release any information about the prisons to the public since they are being privately funded. This means we as the public could have little to almost no idea of how the prisons are being operated and how the inmates are being treated. According to an article by Criminal Justice Programs, “Most private prisons are in the South and West, including both state and federal level offenders. They can accept or decline any offender they choose, and often choose to decline offenders who have medical conditions or mental health issues that make them costlier to house.” This means they can select which inmates they want, ensuring that each one they pick will profit them in some way. For example, a privately-owned prison would be more inclined to take in less violent inmates because they don’t need as much security thus meaning they would not need to pay more for a security team than they already are. Many incarcerated individuals in private prisons are there for drug-related offenses or non-violent offenses.

The Impact of Private Prisons

If you are still wondering why private prisons should be banned, consider how they take an impact on minorities. In an article by the Huffington Post, it is reported that more than 60 percent of inmates in the United States identify as African-American or Latinx. How is it that 60 percent of the prison population are people of color (POC), while they make up only 30 percent of the American population? This is because the system targets POC at a higher rate than White people. Since the late 1900s and into the early 2000s, with the War on Drugs being created in order to specifically target Black people, the prison population has been continuously rising. As of March 2020, three million people are incarcerated, with this number going up every year. Private prisons want to do everything they can in order to keep targeting minorities, and having them land in prison. Private prisons hold no empathy for their inmates. The public has very little idea of what actually goes on behind the doors of private prisons, which poses significant dangers to the inmates they are holding. They simply want to keep profiting off of the inmates they currently hold and will continue to do so unless they are banned.


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