While the idea of private prisons do not seem immediately problematic when considering the role they play in reducing prison overcrowding, the costs inarguably overshadows the benefits. First off, the addition of private prisons as an an alternative to criminals who can afford it, is simply putting a band aid on the problem of overcrowding. It is only an immediate fix for an ongoing issue. We need to instead examine the root causes as to why we have so many of our citizens behind bars. It is said that the U.S. has the highest ratios of inmates to population than other developed countries (check out).
Being the “Land of the Free,” it seems to go against our political ideology. The United States seen an increase in inmates following the War on Drugs which disproportionately target people of color (read article). There was increased sentencing disparities among people of color who are more likely to abuse crack cocaine than its powdered form. New legislation during the War on Drugs era made crack cocaine punishable up 100x more than its pure cocaine form. As people of color were more likely abuse crack instead of the powder form due to affordability, this disproportionately put large amounts of people of color behind bars. Furthermore, lower income communities were targeted by drug raids that put large ratios of African Americans and Hispanics in prison oppose to their counterparts.
While the prison system appeared to being doing its job in putting criminals behind bars, it is still has its flaws. There are a number of statistics that distinguish Caucasians as the primary group that is affected by drug usage/abuse, (see). However, this would never be known when looking at the demographics that show African Americans and Hispanics as the largest racial/ethnic groups in prison for drug related charges. Therefore, if drugs were our primary enemy, then we are not doing a good job eradicating this issue when the criminal justice system isn’t providing justice.
Furthermore, private prisons were created primarily to make profit than it was to reduce overcrowding. It is common knowledge that wherever money is in the mix there is also greed and corruption. Private prison were created after many states proposed building new prisons but received push back from taxpayers (check out). For that reason, they had turned to private prisons to house the multifold of inmates. What became a major issue was the contract the states had between the owners which required states to fulfill quotas of inmates placed in these private prisons. The more inmates in these private prisons means more profit for the owners and shareholders. Therefore, this pressured the state to keep a certain amount of inmates behind bars in order to avoid any breaches of contracts. The greed can be seen as there were reports of judges (gatekeepers of justice) purposely extending sentencing to keep youth in prison longer. This completely diminishes the justice component of the criminal justice system as each individual in not only being treated differently, but two people who committed the same offense can receive sentences of different length.
Lastly, the most despicable aspect of private prisons in the forced labor of inmates. When we have inmates being forced to work for wages well below minimum wage and for the profit of companies like Whole Foods, Walmart, and McDondalds (very small few). This makes the idea of private prisons some more unconstitutional as you learn more of how it operates. While these are criminals, they should have the same economic protection as citizens. Ultimately, it is evident that private for-profit prisons have no business being in our criminal justice system as the greed takes over justice from being served.