For-profit prison companies and the handling of incarceration alternatives

A report called “Treatment Industrial Complex” released earlier this month by the American Friends Service Committee, Grassroots Leadership, and the Southern Center for Human Rights, details the sometimes shocking treatment of prisoners and the formerly incarcerated. The report’s tagline really sums up what to expect: “How for-profit prison corporations are undermining efforts to treat and rehabilitate prisoners for corporate gain.” Specifically, the report singles out two companies, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, which it says have profoundly benefited from the increase of incarcerated people since the 1980s; it’s, ultimately, the growth in incarceration levels that helped spur the expansion of private prison corporations.

Community corrections, meaning probation, parole, halfway houses, electronic monitoring, day reporting, home confinement and drug and alcohol treatment centers, is one segment discussed in the report that is the most pertinent area related to this blog’s coverage area. The report says that two-thirds of people involved in the criminal justice system are not behind bars, but rather out in the community. Further, the report states, one in 45 adults is on parole or probation.

The main issue is that many people have to pay fees in order to be on parole or probation, including for equipment such as monitoring devices. And if people can’t pay, they run the risk of going to jail or prison. This is an area The New Yorker documented this past summer in a piece that detailed two of the same companies as this report.

“The result has been likened to the creation of modern day debtor’s prisons. Not only does this represent an unequal system of justice (one for those who can pay, one for those who can’t), it also puts taxpayers on the hook, paying for jail time that is completely unnecessary and counterproductive,” the report says.

Finally, from the report’s conclusion:

This is a critical moment. There is a nationwide movement to rethink our criminal justice priorities, favoring evidence-based practices that favor treatment and prevention over prison warehousing. The debate over immigration reform rages, with the potential ‘path to citizenship’ posing a serious threat to essentially half of CCA and GEO Group’s profits. The role of for-profit prison corporations in these important policy discussions could mean the difference between reforms that truly address human needs and a destructive “widening of the net” that only serves to increase the level of control and surveillance at the expense of public safety.

I encourage you to give it a read.

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