American Prisons – Big Money Makers For Large Corporations

Did you know that here in America, locking people up in prison is big business?  Well it seems to be so. Take a look at Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group. These are two private corporations who appear to be raking in money from tax payers for their services. The catch is that they are required to have prison occupancy quotas of  90 – 100% or they don’t receive Uncle Sam’s cash.  So in order to keep the cells full, they get their lobbyists to do some leg work to change our laws.

In 1982 President Reagan declared the War on Drugs even as drug crimes were declining. Since then prison population has grown substantially. The U.S. spends more than $51,000,000,000 annually on the war on drugs. In 2012 1.55 million people were arrested for nonviolent drug charges; 749,825 of those people were arrested for marijuana and 658,231 (88 percent) of those people were arrested for possession only. So one has to wonder – are those the real criminals we should be locking people up?

For starters, law enforcement should refocus on pursuing real criminals like the people involved in over inflating the housing bubble in the mid 2000’s. People like Dick Fuld (ex Leman Brothers CEO) who filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. His bankruptcy was so large that it caused a huge blow to the global financial market.  It left the U.S. taxpayer with a $700 billion bill in order to rescue Wall Street and keep the markets functioning.  Fuld walked away free after all was said and done.

Now which crime really deserved prison time – the guy who was arrested for possession of marijuana or Fuld? Obviously politicians and Court Officials have little integrity in these type cases. It appears accepting bribe money (lobbyist money) is the new norm here in the U.S. The bottom line is that for corporations, it’s better to fill prisons with a lot of people who can be easily and fairly effortlessly charged with nonviolent crimes.

According to “the United States has locked up more people than any other country; a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S.  Recent statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people.”  In simple terms, what’s really going on here is that companies like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have been lobbying congress to crack down on nonviolent crimes so they can meet their occupancy quota, keep prisons full and continue generating big money with their large government contracts even if it has a negative impact on American citizens.

Another not so well known part of this system in prison labor.  According to “in recent years, Congress has pressured defense officials to cut costs on uniforms. Increasingly, the department has turned to federal prisons, where wages are under $2 per hour. Federal inmates this year stitched more than $100 million worth of military uniforms.”

Walmart also generates profits from prison labor by having prisoners clean up store returns and unsold items so that Walmart can resell these products to after-market retailers who then resell these products to the public. The prisoners again only receive a nominal pay.  People may say that prisoners only deserve a low hourly pay because they broke the law and are now costing tax payers money doing time in the prison system.  I agree there is nothing wrong with keeping prisoners busy and useful, however, the pay seems unfair and similar to slave labor.

Everyone knows business owners love to grow their businesses but are these corporate run prisons really the businesses we want growing here in America?  They have been known to lobby and make sure more people stay in prison and jail longer. According to in Arizona the private prisons don’t have the same safety levels as State run facilities.  In addition, they estimate the private prisons cost the state an additional $10 million annually. also added, “for-profit prison corporations do not measure recidivism rates” (the rate at which an inmate will rebound back into their criminal activities) and “for-profit prison corporations are not accountable to Arizona tax- payers” thus they receive tax payer money but they don’t have the same transparency as government agencies.

What do you think? Do you think privately run prisons generating large dollars for corporations is a good or bad thing?



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