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DOJ Finds Socialist Corrections Better than Private Prisons

A Facebook friend shares this article crying that “Socialism always fails.” My friend forgets that he got his education in public schools and drives around the county on public roads. If he comes to visit the Brown County Fair, he’ll need to be reminded that all the carnies and corn-dog vendors get their great capitalist opportunity on a publicly owned fairgrounds at a free-admission event managed by public employees and volunteers.

My friend will also need to grapple with the Department of Justice’s decision that socialism runs prisons better than does private enterprise:

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.

…The Justice Department’s inspector general last week released a critical report concluding that privately operated facilities incurred more safety and security incidents than those run by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The private facilities, for example, had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and had eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average, according to the report.

…“The fact of the matter is that private prisons don’t compare favorably to Bureau of Prisons facilities in terms of safety or security or services, and now with the decline in the federal prison population, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to do something about that,” Yates said [Matt Zapotosky and Chico Harlan, “Justice Department Says It Will End Use of Private Prisons,” Washington Post, 2016.08.18].

Bloomberg writer Paul Barrett contends these private prisons were tasked with harder cases:

The IG report didn’t control for critical variables such as the makeup of prison populations and facility locations. Many contract prison populations are dominated by criminal aliens serving sentences before they’re deported, often back to Mexico or Central America. Those facilities are more difficult to manage and more prone to violence because of the entrenched presence of gangs based in Latin American nations. The populations in BOP-run prisons tend to be more heterogeneous and, if not easy to keep in line, certainly easier to manage than populations characterized by foreign gang rivalries [Paul Barrett, “The Justice Department Used Shaky Statistis to Drop Private Prisons,” BloombergBusinessweek, 2016.08.19].

However, Zapotosky and and Harlan characterize these “criminal alien” inmates as “low security.”

Senator Bernie Sanders notches another “I told you so” in his belt:

“The Justice Department’s plan to end its use of private prisons is an important step in the right direction. It is exactly what I campaigned on as a candidate for president,” Sanders said in a statement. “We have got to end the private prison racket in America as quickly as possible. Our focus should be on keeping people out of jail and making sure they stay out when they are released. This means funding jobs and education not more jails and incarceration” [Josh Gerstein, “Justice Department to Phase out Use of Private Prisons,” Politico, 2016.08.18].

The Justice Department decision affects Federal Bureau of Prisons contracts with thirteen private facilities: five in Texas, two in Georgia, and one each in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, and California. the DOJ decision does not affect contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service, or states.

Private enterprise is fine and dandy for responding to demand for corn dogs (though remind me how much we spotted those corn growers in subsidized crop insurance?). But when it comes to basic state functions like restraining convicts, it is wiser and, apparently, safer and more effective to rely on state-owned services rather than profit-seekers.


  1. Adam 2016-08-21 13:22

    Privatized, for-profit, prisons aim to make ‘repeat customers’ out of inmates rather than rehabilitate them for reintegration back into society. It’s a fact.

    When profit is the motivation for a prison, they warehouse people in terrible conditions and make sure inmates get no rehabilitation whatsoever. Then they claim the harshness of the conditions is the rehab; only people who never took a Psycology class buy the BS sales pitch for privatized prisons.

    Jesus Christ Himself cries at the sight of what this country has done to the least among us, and Him, in the name profit and business.

  2. Bob Newland 2016-08-21 20:06

    Knee-jerk anti-socialists might do well to admit that government is–by its very nature–socialist. There is no, and there never has been a, government that is not socialist. Government takes the fruits of production of its constituents and turns them into “products” that either hurt or help them.

    Infrastructure is an example of the latter. Pol Pot is an example of the former.

  3. Douglas Wiken 2016-08-22 12:21

    The prison industries have dumped a lot of money into the GOP and their “tough on crime” mythology. Their tough on crime doesn’t really apply to the really, really, big crooks in insurance, banking, and stock sales.

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