One of the aspects of the upcoming Trump administration that has received little attention is that he, and his attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, are both big fans of privatizing prisons and jails. That idea has proven disastrous and ineffective throughout the states.
But on Nov. 9, the day after Donald J. Trump was elected president, the stocks of correctional conglomerates were among the best performing on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares in Corrections Corporation of America, now CoreCivic, gained an astonishing 43 percent on the day. The reason? Privatization is back at the top of the government’s agenda.
While this is being applauded in executive suites across corporate America, the cost for the rest of society is likely to be high.
“With prisons I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons,” Mr. Trump said on the campaign trail last year. “It seems to work a lot better.” Mr. Trump’s pick for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is a staunch supporter of the approach, having invited private prisons into his state as its attorney general more than 20 years ago.
This on the heels of the Obama administration declaring a moratorium on the use of private prisons at the federal level and many states pulling out of their contracts because of horrendous management and violations in privately-run state prisons.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates noted in a memo that while private prisons were useful when public prisons were overflowing, they made little sense now that the prison population was falling. They didn’t save much on costs. Nor did they provide the kind of rehabilitation programs proved to reduce recidivism.
And they are particularly dangerous. A recent report by the department’s inspector general found that prisoners in private facilities, which house some 12 percent of federal inmates, were much more likely to have weapons. Private prisons had many more assaults on inmates and prison workers than those run by the Bureau of Prisons. And they went into lockdown to respond to disturbances 10 times as often.
Not to mention scandals over serving maggot-infested food. That’s how they cut costs, you see. But in fact they don’t. The savings claimed from privatization of prisons and jails have proved illusory, while the conditions and management have created massive problems. Private prisons and jails should not be expanded, they should be banned.