Long, Intense, But Worth the Read


Mother Jones has published an investigative report on what it is like to be a corrections officer in a private prison. It is long, but it is well worth the read.

The problems with privatizing prisons are so many it can be difficult to sum them up in one place, although the principle of making a profit off of human incarceration should in itself be a red flag to anyone who considers it. Like any corporation, maximizing profit and cutting costs are going to be the primary focus, and doing this at the expense of disenfranchised people whom society cares very little about is troubling in itself. On top of that, you have the fact that the United States allows corporations to essentially decide who is going to be elected through campaign donations, thus giving them an incentive to support politicians and judges who are going to be harder on crime, legislate for lengthier sentences for non-violent offenses, and put an ever-growing percentage of the population in prison for longer and longer stretches of time, while not bothering to spend the money on rehabilitating and cutting back on recidivism. Why should they? Recidivism also leads to more inmates, and more money.

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All of that is just the tip of the iceberg that is the clusterfuck of the private prison industry. The investigative report gives a more personal, insider firsthand account of what it is like to actually work in one. I feel like the latest season of Orange is the New Black might actually be far more accurate than the lighthearted comedic nature of the show might suggest.

The article talks about how an investigative reporter, using his real name, got hired immediately as a corrections officer in a private prison in Louisiana. It talks about how single moms, baristas, kids barely out of high school are hired alongside him: “if you come here and you breathing and you got a valid driver’s license and you willing to work, then we’re willing to hire you.”

It talks about how few COs, are actually present in any given area, so they are taught to let fights between inmates sort themselves out, to not get involved, and to practice withstanding being tear gassed without running away.

It talks about the ridiculous inmate councils, consisting of two minute long “trials” for inmates who broke rules such as, for example, sweeping an area outside of the designated sweeping times, which can cost you additional time in prison.

It is long, but it is worth the read, and I hope that on a weekend like this you might find the half hour or so to do so, especially if you know little about the private prison industry.

 

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