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National

Prison Quotas Push Lawmakers To Fill Beds, Derail Reform

After three violent inmates escaped from an Arizona private prison in July 2010, prompting a two-week, multi-state manhunt, state corrections officials demanded improvements and stopped sending new inmates to what they called a “dysfunctional” 3,300-bed facility. Less than a year later, the company that runs the prison, Management & Training Corp., threatened to sue the state. A line in their contract guaranteed that the prison would remain 97 percent full. They argued they had lost nearly $10 million from the reduced inmate population.

State officials renegotiated the contract, but ended up paying $3 million for empty beds as the company continued to address problems, according to state documents and local news accounts.

Far from the exception, Arizona’s contractually obligated promise to fill prison beds is a common provision in a majority of America’s private prison contracts, according to a public records analysis released today by the advocacy group In the Public Interest. The group reviewed more than 60 contracts between private prison companies and state and local governments across the country, and found language mentioning quotas for prisoners in nearly two-thirds of those analyzed. Full Article

Complete Report (pdf)

Join the discussion

  1. Eric Knight

    Although I’m libertarian, I recognize that any task delegated to direct maintenance of the US Constitution, such as the defense of the nation as well as domestic law enforcement, must be directly held accountable by the governing bodies, and not through a profit-oriented business enterprise. The reason is very simple: There is a potential bias toward compromising the Constitution. In this case, the 8th amendment comes into play as legal entities would be pressured, financially, to incarcerate guilty offenders rather than give them a sentence more in line with their offense.

    For the most part, the free market has more advantages than a state-run organization, but by definition the free market is based upon profits and necessary bias toward such profitability. This is at odds with a component of criminal justice that requires incarceration as part of sentencing. requiring a minimum of 97% of capacity does not account for the ebbs and flows of crime waves as well. Sometimes, crime will be too much requiring more beds, and sometimes crime trends downward, well below the 97% threshold needed to maintain contract compliance.

    • David Kennerly

      On the other hand, no entity has a greater conflict of interest in perpetuating and expanding the police state than such organizations as the California Peace Officers Association, a decidedly non-commercial (though wildly lucrative) lobbying interest.

      I, too, am a Libertarian and I caution that imagining the civil libertarian horror story that is the U.S. today as an entirely capitalist construct is to miss substantially the fundamental reasons for its existence and fails to correctly identify the root cause of mass hysteria which is promulgated at the level of the citizen.

      Commercial interests are but one of the net beneficiaries (along with the State and NGO’s) of this widespread exercise of irresponsible citizenship.

      Blaming “capitalism” for what is happening to us is shortsighted and betrays a deficiency of insight into, what is ultimately, state-sponsored terror fueled by the ignorance of the masses. We are suffering as a result of living in a majoritarian society, not a blindly consumerist one, although we may also be that.

      If we don’t correctly identify our enemy, we will never win.

    • mh

      As with all things, there are pro’s and con’s to the free market economy. Karl Marx did have some interesting ideas. You don’t necessarily have to agree with his “solutions” to recognize that he some very valid observations on the problems that a capitalist economy presents. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Karl Marx ever came out and said that capitalism is inherently wrong, he only stated his observations. His ideas of socialism weren’t exactly the same thing that comes to mind when we think about the Soviet Union or The People’s Republic of China.

      Although, I would definitely have to say that this article definitely reveals one of the Achilles’ Heels of capitalism. But how could a problem like this be combated? Let’s be honest with ourselves – the people who build these prisons look at it like a business. So when they build, stock, and man a complex like that, it’s an investment. Plain and simple. However, such logic utterly precludes social aspects, such as equal justice under law. How do we balance a problem like that?

  2. Tired of hiding

    Lets just cut to the chase, America is in the control business. There is no real freedom here and the government is more than happy to lock you up if you step out of line.

    Case in point: the war on drugs (what a stupid phrase) to clear proof of this. There is big money is locking casual drug users up…simple as that. Keeps up the illusion that cops are actually doing something useful, keeps people paranoid to only do the “legal drugs” drinking and smoking even though those 2 legal drugs account for most of the violence and health issues in this country! Insane – you bet!

    More people are locked up here in the land of the free than any other industrialized country and that is big business. If you can’t look them up then pass laws that monitor those even who are not locked up and have cooperated and fully paid that dept to society (another stupid meaningless phrase). So watch those damn sex offenders even though logic and facts state that it is not necessary and that if you really want to prevent sex crimes educate people that “sex crimes” are not committed by the sex offender they can look up online and lives next door but committed by something they know and who has access right now!

    But in American (and increasingly the rest of the world) it is more comforting to live with rose colored glasses than see reality and I really don’t see ever changing.

  3. td777

    Most people would see a reduction in inmate populations as a result in the reduction of crimes committed…a good thing, right? Not according to our current corrupt government, if we have reduced crime rates, they seem to believe we need to do something about it so that crime rates increase, like creating new laws making more acts illegal!

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