I somehow missed this a couple weeks ago, but the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the country (and thus, almost certainly, the world), is offering to buy state-run prisons and jails — as long as the states will promise to keep them 90% full.
As state governments wrestle with massive budget shortfalls, a Wall Street giant is offering a solution: cash in exchange for state property. Prisons, to be exact.
Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for “challenging corrections budgets.” In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.
I’m almost at a loss for words here. My typical go-to term would be “appalling,” but that seems too week. Asinine? How about dangerous and corrosive to society? This country already has a huge, huge problem — almost infinitely bigger than most Americans realize — with mass incarceration. We lock up a higher percentage of our citizens than any other nation in the world, and by a sizable margin. And most of those who are locked up have harmed no one but themselves (and often not even themselves).
As Michelle Alexander documents in exhaustive detail in her book The New Jim Crow, the result is hundreds of thousands of people every year being shut out of the mainstream of society for minor offenses like drug possession. Once they have that conviction on their record, they become instantly ineligible for everything from public housing assistance to pell grants. Their odds of finding a job shrink tremendously. It’s a perfect recipe for creating a permanent underclass.
And now along comes a company that wants to profit from guaranteeing even more of this. This is a company that simply should not be allowed to exist, period. It is the function of government to run the criminal justice system, not corporations.