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PRIVATE PRISONS- a business worth investing?

We all know prisons have evolved a great deal, from being torture cages to civilized cells, where prisoners are entitled to have basic human rights. Is the concept of private prisons the next ideal step towards reforming the offenders of the law in a more refined manner?


How do private jails sustain themselves and benefit their investors?

Now that we know that private prisons do exist, this question will surely strike our mind since we know the primary motive of investors is profit earning and private prisons provide them with a handful amount. Here’s how –


One of the profitable aspects of private prisons is that they receive heavy compensation from the government to maintain their services and also for other overhead expenses. All the commodities they purchase are at a subsidised rate.


Replacement of human beings with technology like electronically operated doors, cut surveillance, barbed wires with electric current to prevent prison breaks, etc. lead to reduction in the cost of salaries and a better, more convincing model of working.


Prisoners with calm nature or better recreation are handed over duties like cooking daily meals, cleaning the prison compound, repair works around the jail, etc., which also leads to a better recreational activity and benefits in reducing cost for the private investors, thus, increasing the profits.


While private prisons were created to save the government money, critics claim that inmates are treated inhumanely and are only seen as a source of profit for corporations. Prisons make more money by charging inmates for small things depending on the facility, in the form of fines and penalties.


Problems in private prisons

Today's private prison corporations are motivated by perverse and immoral incentives, such as the fact that an increase in crime and the number of people incarcerated in America's prisons is good for business. With the apparent deliberate increase in the number of inmates, lower prison maintenance costs, longer sentences, and high repetition rates, it is clear that this prison system is in the business of generating revenue rather than rehabilitation or punishment. The goal of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate inmates. These goals have been questioned because incarceration has a recidivism rate of over 77 percent for violent crimes.


Many detention institutions along the US-Mexico border are privately owned and press reports from the previous year or so indicate that the conditions in these facilities are far from humane. According to the New York Times, one GEO detention camp featured "barely edible food," as well as poor health care and guard abuse. There have also been numerous instances of psychological mistreatment in detention camps near the border.

We should not forget that, through all these horrible conditions, there is a company profiting off mass detention and subjecting people to inhumane conditions.


Advantages of private lockups

Now you must be thinking that if the situation is so poor, then why do privately owned prisons still exist? Much like everything in this world, it has its own advantages. The first and foremost is that it costs the government less to keep the inmates in a contracted facility than maintaining a public prison. And where does the government get the funds for the private prisons? Yes, you guessed it, through the taxpayers. I’m sure a lot of us have seen The Dark Knight, a masterpiece by Christopher Nolan. The scene on the ferries, where one carried the general population of Gotham and the other carried its prisoners. The fate of each ferry was in the hands of the other one. The civilians argued that they should be the ones to survive, and not the prisoners, as those men had made their choices in life which led to their predicament. A lot of viewers might have agreed with this point of view. Now I’m not advocating for the execution of all criminals, there is no need for such extreme measures, but in the context of our topic, if incarcerating the criminals can be reduced, then why shouldn’t it be? When a cheaper alternative is clearly available, why should the taxpayer pay so much money for maintaining the prisons? Also, a private prison works to reduce population ratios in public prisons. The number of criminals keep increasing by the day. This increases the number of inmates in public prisons, and they risk overpopulation. Private prisons help reduce this burden on public prisons by housing inmates. Private prisons also help to create jobs. In a public prison, only people who are working in law enforcement are given employment and finding employment in law enforcement can be tricky sometimes. Private prisons help people gain employment as correction officers, administrative support, and medical staff. Services such as transportation are also employed by private prisons. Private prisons also provide a job which can serve as a steppingstone into law enforcement work, as the skills gained by the employees here and the experience in working with offenders can be useful if they are employed in a public prison in the future.


The bottom line is that private prison system can work if done properly. It saves the taxpayers’ money. The government might set some standards such as standard of living, cleanliness, food etc. , so that in an effort to cut costs, the companies do not create an unlivable place. As of 2019, there are approximately 116,000 inmates incarcerated in private prisons, which is 8% of the total prison population. An industry which can be run privately, only works for the benefit of the economy.\



By- Shashwat Sharma & Harleen Kaur


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