This is a submission from our Leaders 4SC Middle School Camp.

One of our greatest problems in a capitalist society are for-profit prisons. They are an extremely discriminatory system in which a people’s life is taken away from them. For-profit prisons are an atrocity that should be banned, because there should not be stockholders making money off of imprisoning free citizens, and also because those people are disproportionately African Americans. And while some people believe that prisons are just another capitalistic system, I believe that people should not be benefiting from taking away other people’s freedom. And in most cases, it also ruins the rest of their lives. Here, I will be explaining why we should abolish for-profit prisons.

Private prisons are extremely detrimental to society. One of the biggest problems is when they are first detained. Many studies show that prisons are disproportionately packed with young people of color. As stated on NPR, “The Sentencing Project estimates 1 in 3 black men will spend time behind bars during their lifetime, compared with 1 in 6 Latino men and 1 in 17 white men.” It goes on to say that there are many other racial disparities, such as that people of color have 4 times higher arrest rates than white people for marijuana, and that they usually spend 20 percent longer time in jail. Since they are not run by the government, it is up to them to distribute healthcare as they see fit. Another disparity is the age disparity. The healthcare and other important resources distributed throughout the prison should logically go to younger people, since they are more likely to be released and more likely to reoffend, but they are usually all given to older people. Programs that benefit younger inmates are also usually the first to be cut, making them cheaper. But by far the greatest motivator is money, and all of the other things are usually just systemic issues. And as you will later see, the prisons will do anything to get as much money as they can.

People who have been in prison are affected for the rest of their life. While you are in prison, you have all of your actions controlled. It is completely different though, when instead of caring about your well being, all they care about is making a profit. Many presidential candidates have promised to end them, and The New Yorker says, “Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates wrote in a memo to federal officials, that these prisons, contrary to the private-prison industry’s claims, ‘do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.’”And the justice department finally decided to phase them out. But, as it turns out, the court’s decision only affects about thirteen prisons. Is anyone really surprised though? For-profit prisons have poured millions of dollars into lobbying. And at one point the government entered a deal with Haley Lappin, “offered states a deal: the company would buy state prisons (the money could help plug state budgets) in exchange for twenty-year contracts and guaranteed ninety-per-cent occupancy. And it even turns out that two-thirds of for-profit prisons have occupancy guarantees, which means that if the prison has under a certain amount of people, the taxpayers through the government essentially just pays them money for the empty beds. And many private prisons with government contracts also house detainees and not sentenced criminals. That is why these prisons have negative impacts on the people in them and on the people who used to be in them.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world. According to The Sentencing Project, “Of the 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons in 2016, 8.5 percent, or 128,063, were incarcerated in private prisons.1) Another 26,249 people -73 percent of all people in immigration detention- were confined in privately-run facilities on a daily basis during fiscal year 2017.” This is an immense amount that just shows our greater problem with immigration. From 200 to 2016, our Private Immigrant Detention population has increased 442%. Privatization has slowly been increasing in prisons for a while now, and there are no signs of the trend changing. A lot of people argue that a lot of states have gotten rid of incarceration in private prisons, but I would argue that a lot have started. If you want an extreme example, take New Mexico. The state is so dependent on private prisons that they made up for 43% of their prison population. And in 1990’s, their governor Gary Johnson even promoted privatizing all of the state’s prisons. I believe that no place should be that dependent on for-profit prisons.

But some people believe that for-profit prisons are good. In an article about the advantages and disadvantages of for-profit prisons by Future of Working, they state that, “For-profit prisons work toward efficiencies that keep costs down as much as possible for taxpayers…This advantage depends on the organization being managed responsibly, along with having appropriate numbers of guards and administrators”. To this I say that I believe that we should have everyone paying a little money for equality is better than having someone earning a lot of money off racism. I also know that all of the people who are unfairly imprisoned will pay taxes and help society, which would increase government money and society. They also said that, “The privatization of prisons creates job opportunities on numerous levels for a community…such as corrections officers, administrative support, and medical supplementation”. I believe that this issue should not be fixed by giving people needless jobs, but rather be addressed in more crucial ways. I believe that we should not hide our unemployment issue by putting some people in jail needlessly, and some in needles high paying positions. In yet another argument, they say, “These facilities can also be altered or used to provide several different community-based needs. Some have been turned into galleries or archives, while others have been converted into administrative offices…A vacant 525-bed prison facility in Portland, OR is useful for recording movies and TV shows”. I feel like this is not relevant, because the people who are being mistreated are more important than getting another episode of Orange is the New Black. Also, all of the money that is produced just makes the few stockholders and the people at the top richer, and I believe that they already have enough money. That is why I think that this idea is not correct.  

After reading this, some people might be against private prisons, but believe that they are so fundamental that they can not be brought down. It all started with a man named Juan Moreno. One day when he was walking to work, an unmarked car with some ICE agents arrested him and locked him up in a private prison. Within the next 22 days in the prison, he got  cold, and when he asked the guards to turn the heat up, they told him to get another blanket, knowing very well that he could not get another one. After Moreno got out, he decided to speak out against for-profit prisons. At that time, the third largest for-profit prison company, Management and Training Company, was trying to build a huge private prison in Wyoming. Frustrated, Moreno shared his story with many other angry wyomingites. But these stories are not new. Between 2006 and 2011, about 3,000 people were detained in a place called tent city, where they were reported to be treated horribly. And as the ACLU article stated, “These horror stories are not new to lawmakers. In June 2009, a former nurse at the facility testified in a congressional briefing that ‘the level of human suffering [at Willacy] was just unbelievable.’” But nothing ever changes. But soon people started noticing that Wyoming as a whole was standing up. And slowly people started paying attention. This just shows that anything can be achieved if you have enough people. That is why, if there is a for-profit prison being built near you, stand up! If enough people do, you can make a difference!

Our country has stuck with for-profit prisons for a long time, and I believe that these generations should break the trend. Imagine if a young African American immigrant is just driving down the street, when some officers pull him over and arrest him for drug dealing. He is then hustled into a private prison, where je soons find out is a nightmare. They ignore even the most simple requests, put him next to some violent gang members, and even cut all of their programs for younger people. And since they are not owned by the government, they can just walk, and sometimes even cross, the line between what is legal and what is not. If not for yourself, do it for these people. Stand up for immigrants, people of color, poor people, and many others. With your help, we might be able to make a difference.

Written by Leaders 4SC 2020 Student, Timur G.