Five myths of the private prison industry

Source: Beryl Lipton, Muckrock, October 19, 2015

Let’s take a look at the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding the incarceration industry.

5. They’re a reaction to, not a cause of, prison crowding.
….The constant overlap of players and the seemingly lax conflict of interest rules for those moving between the private and public sectors makes it difficult to talk about the private prison system as a whole having no influence on how mass incarceration is actually being treated, as opposed with dealt with, by those whose jobs it is.

4. They’re a relatively small part of the problem without much influence on the system as a whole.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that private operators contain nearly 20% of the federal population, with bites more taken out of various state systems: 16.5% in Arizona; 18.3% in Colorado, 38.7% in Montana, 24.3% in Hawaii. …

3. They work for the government, so even though they’re not open to public inspection, the courts and the oversight committees keep them in check.
…But just because the government has hired someone to watch over a prison contract doesn’t mean that so much will come of any wrongdoings they find. Consider in Kingman, where an inspection of the prison noted that the facility was deficient in multiple areas. The following month, there was a riot, and the Governor ordered an investigation into the facility, ultimately declaring that the operator, Management and Training Corporation, would be losing its contract.

2. They don’t profit off of the inmates themselves.
There are plenty of ways that prisons can profit off of their inmates: labor, room and board, commissary fees, telephone commissions. …

1. They save money.
…Given the incidentals — contract monitoring, utility provision, external medical bills — the argument that privately-operated prisons are a cost-saving measure with no loss in quality has been thrown about with almost no actual explanation….