Private Prison Profiteering

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3 Responses

  1. James Grimmelmann says:

    Can you say a bit more about the duty to increase shareholder profits that you see facing private prison corporations? It’s not clear to me that this is the sort of “duty” that creates moral or legal obligations to affirmatively engage in the conduct you describe. In particular, how does the business judgment rule enter into your account of the moral dilemma?

  2. nidefatt says:

    Right. I’m not sure why this is something you have to argue. It’s not as if we don’t have weapons manufacturers urging us into wars and “global conflicts.” It wouldn’t be business if these corporations didn’t seek to increase their profit by any lawful means. And there’s nothing unlawful about convincing politicians seeking to be “tough on crime” to lock more people up for longer. However, since the taxpayer pays for the whole thing, it seems like just a matter of time before an expose brings down the house.

  3. Annette Gordon-Reed says:

    “There is nothing unlawful about convincing politicians seeking to be “tough on crime” to lock more people up for longer.” As is often the case, what is “legal”/ “lawful” is the real scandal. The end of slavery in this country brought new methods to “deal with” the black population that was not to be truly assimilated into society and was, in fact, despised. Legislators, former slave owners and their kids and grandkids, used law–being “tough on crime”– to round up black men and women whose labor was then hired out. Whether it was for profit or just to get them out of sight, law was used as a direct tool for social oppression. It was all legal, and all morally reprehensible.

    The US locks up more people than any nation in the world, certainly any other industrialized nation. There is no question that blacks and people of color are disproportionately represented in the prison population. The policy of targeting those communities in the war on drugs helped to drive the rise in the jail and prison population over the past few decades. History’s fingerprints are all over this. So, I see a difference between being tough on crime because you want to raise profits and being tough on crime out of a desire to protect the public. If it’s about profits, there will be an incentive to criminalize behavior whether it harms society or not. You can do that more easily with disfavored members of society, blacks and Hispanics, for example.

    I don’t see why the business of prisons should operate differently than other businesses. Name a business that does not care whether it grows or whether it declines.