The Republican obsession to reduce the size of government by privatizing all non-inherent government functions comes from a false belief that private enterprises can be more cost-effective than what they deem as inept government. Their quest to privatize Medicare and Social Security, education, and other public sector services is good for corporations, but certainly not for society.
A case in point, in 1984 a Republican controlled Senate passed legislation that allowed for-profit prisons. But the pursuit of profit only created an incentive to keep people behind bars, which have turned the privatized prison system into a multimillion-dollar industry. Not surprisingly, today, prison populations have increased to the extent that the United States has higher incarceration rates than any other country.
Increasingly over the last 30 years, things have been golden for private prisons. Jails are now bursting at the seams with two-thirds of prisoners returning to prison within three years. The incarceration industry has been successful lobbying Congress for greater and stiffer conviction guidelines and reducing opportunities to earn probation and parole. It’s their imperative because without prisoners these industries would be out of business.
Professors Steve Fraser and Joshua Freeman attributed the rise in prison populations to prison privatization, which “has meant the creation of a small army of workers too coerced and right-less to complain.” Prisoners produce military equipment, paints and paintbrushes, body armor, home appliances, headphones/microphones/speakers, office furniture, airplane parts, medical supplies, provide equipment assembly services, and they raise seeing-eye dogs; they work in call centers, take hotel reservations, work in slaughterhouses, make textiles, shoes, and clothing. All of this while being paid between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.
Moreover, in their pursuit of profit, private prison companies solicit state governments for contracts that include occupancy guarantees. They charge states if they don’t meet contracted lockup quotas. This essentially leaves taxpayers to pay for empty beds if there are decreases in crime rates.
In any case, to “… prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation” is un-American, immoral, and simply wrong. It has not worked nor will it ever work.