The Pros And Cons Of For-Profit Prisons

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The for-profit prison industry has seen incredible growth in the last two decades. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which is the largest owner of private prisons in the nation, has experienced a 500% revenue increase during that time (Kroll). The United States has a long history of private corporations interacting with prisons, but until the 1980s, that was limited to contracting out convicts for certain services. As prison populations expanded, however, completely privately owned and operated prisons began to proliferate. The privatization of the prison industry, and by extension the privatization of justice itself, for what is incarceration if not the conclusion of the justice process, is inherently repulsive. Due to obvious…show more content…
Not content to merely house the prisoners as they are convicted by existing laws, the for-profit prison interest groups have actively lobbied for three-strike and truth in sentencing laws in order to increase both the number of people sent to jail and the terms they would serve (Kroll). That is exactly the kind of situation Sandel describes where “markets crowd out morals” (Sandel 93). In an equitable society, justice as an ideal and its implementation must be formulated and applied relative to the good of the nation, not distorted to serve the interest of an elite few corporations which make millions at the expense of the marginalized portions of society. Indeed, there was a 145% increase in the number of people entering the federal prison system for immigration offenses from 1998 to 2011; this category saw larger growth than any other (Nolan). The for-profit industry therefore has a strongly vested interest in blocking any immigration reform that would threaten the steady stream of inmates. In a 2011 SEC filing, the CCA warned investors that “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them” (Lee). Immigration law, as well as the similarly situated war on drugs, is in desperate need of reform but the blatantly obstructionist intentions of the private prison industry threaten to derail or delay any meaningful headway congress might make on those issues. A fully public prison system would remove those impediments to change and be manifestly

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