A report from the Inspector General of the Department of Justice has found that private prisons wind up being less safe and less secure due to their tendency to aim for minimum standards.
“We found that, in most key areas, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP (Bureau of Prisons) institutions and that the BOP needs to improve how it monitors contract prisons in several areas,” the report concluded. “With the exception of fewer incidents of positive drug tests and sexual misconduct, the contract prisons had more incidents per capita than the BOP institutions in all of the other categories of data we examined. For example, the contract prisons confiscated eight times as many contraband cellphones annually on average as the BOP institutions. Contract prisons also had higher rates of assaults, both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff.”
Three companies have contracts with the BOP: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc. and Management and Training Corporation (MTC). Their prison populations account for 12 percent of BOP’s total.
Like any private venture, private prisons cut-costs wherever they can, unfortunately, the Inspector General found that cost cutting in prisons led to unsafe working conditions.
“In recent years, disturbances in several contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and even the death of a correctional officer,” said Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz. “Last year, we audited one of these contract prisons and found that it was regularly understaffed in crucial areas, including correctional officers and health services workers.”
This report is just the most recent scandal in private prisons in recent years.
In 2011, Mark Ciavarella, a judge in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his part in the so-called “Kids for Cash” scandal. It was discovered that Ciavarella sentenced juveniles to prison for small and petty crimes in return for financial kickbacks from the private prisons in his jurisdiction.
[Washington Post] [ Forbes]