Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Failing Private Prison Experiment

The private for-profit prison industry stakes its claim for securing government contracts to warehouse prisoners on providing greater efficiency.  Executives for private prison corporations claim that they can better manage taxpayer monies by running prisons more cost effectively and more safely.  Recent research indicates that both of these claims are simply untrue.  Why any state or government would turn over prison care to private concerns is becoming a mystery in light of this emerging evidence.  Unless of course, greed is the primary motivator and massive profits for executives and shareholders is the end game.  Private prisons have become a money-grab, simply transferring taxpayer monies to private industry players, who provide failure in return.

To wit, the Lake Erie Correctional Institution that was purchased in 2011 for $73 million by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) from the state of Ohio.  A report out last month describes in harrowing detail the dysfunction and failures that have occurred at the prison since CCA's takeover.  The Executive Summary of the non-partisan report detailed the conditions of Lake Erie Prison since CCA took possession: 

"LAECI’s primary issue is safety and security. Staff interviews, inmate focus groups, the inmate survey, and institutional data all indicate that personal safety is at risk at LAECI. Assaults, fights, disturbances, and uses of force have all increased in comparison to prior years. There is a high presence of gang activity and illegal substance use. Inmates reported frequent extortion and theft.

Incident reports indicate that staff hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full. 

The above issues are compounded by high staff turnover and low morale. New staff generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to handle inmate confrontations. Staff also reported that they are often required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their response."

More efficient?  Hardly.  The actual result at Lake Erie since CCA took charge is greater violence, increased gang activity and illegal substance use, higher staff turnover, less safety, and greater chaos.  Guards believe that CCA management is so concerned with being sued (and thus losing profits) that they do not allow the guards to properly police the prison population.  

The private for-profit prison experiment is failing.

[photo is in the public domain]

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