It didn’t take U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions long to rescind an Obama-era edict to stop using private prisons. Considering the Trump Administration has taken a stern policy toward more than 11 million illegal immigrants and recreational pot smokers, they’ll need more cells. If you put two convicts in a room, that requires more than 5 million rooms. If you bunk them four in a room, you’re looking at maybe 3 million rooms. Of course, sending more federal judges to the source and deporting detainees instead of holding them should cut down on housing. Still, private prisons are looking at a huge boom.
Although Obama made a lot of claims about eliminating Gitmo and reducing the number of private prisons (neither of which happened), United States law enforcement has been working with private prisons since 1852. The big privatization push came in the 1980s and helped to pull the country out of economic upheaval when the feds made an effort to save about $15 million during the “war on drugs” by using private prisons. Studies during that decade showed that criminals housed in private jails enjoyed better conditions than their government-held counterparts. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out that industry always does a better job of running things than government bureaucrats. That being said, improving prisoners’ living conditions may be more humane, but then again, should we be making life more comfortable for those who are in jail for serious crimes?
Big Economic Win
It may come as a surprise, but the privatization of prisons has had a clear, positive economic effect across the board. While convicts received better living conditions, the move also created numerous private sector construction jobs and lowered government payrolls for the more efficient business models. When compared to state-run systems, private prisons save taxpayers more than 25 percent over the long haul. Prisons should be run efficiently and if it takes private companies to do it, fine, but accommodations should be minimal because criminals are in jail for a reason.
Just hours after Trump won the presidency, stocks for companies tasked with building and managing these facilities jumped 18-64 percent. It was indeed a huge economic boost and has revved up consumer confidence in the construction industry nationwide. The outlook for building and maintaining privately-run jails means more jobs and lower taxes.
There has been concern that the state should be in control of its inmates’ care. That argument seems odd, given the fact that our more vulnerable elderly citizens are generally cared for in independently-managed facilities. Are Americans more concerned with the welfare of violent offenders than senior citizens? Probably not. But in keeping with that idea, the vast majority of people held in private jails are not American citizens anyway. In fact, about two-thirds of criminals in these facilities are illegal immigrants serving time or waiting to be deported. Regardless of background or offense, all criminals are entitled to humane conditions, but that does not include cable TV, sex change operations, and internet access.
Some people claim that handing over the correctional industry to contractors is a recipe for disaster. But, consider not just the elderly, but how our veterans are treated in government-run healthcare facilities. Giving veterans healthcare to the private sector may be an opportunity to get something right. Americans would do well to emphasize better care for the best among us rather than the worst.