Private Prison Profiteering
Last week in this space, I posed the following two questions in connection with the prison industrial complex: “Is it possible, that the Board of Directors of private prison companies . . . are literally strategizing ways to increase the prison population in the United States? To effectively increase profits for shareholders, are private prison companies not only cutting services to prisoners as a way to increase profits, but are they now drafting policies, lobbying politicians, and actively debating ways to ensure that a steady stream of “clients” continues into the private prisons that are proliferating across the United States (now over 25% of prisoners are housed in private prison facilities)?” I answered those two posed questions by suggesting that yes, emerging evidence seems to indicate that private prison corporations are in fact drafting policies, lobbying politicians and actively debating ways to increase the U.S. prison population. Several commentators backed up this assertion.
Seeing that Board members of private prison corporations are duty bound to increase profits for its shareholders, I posit that a moral dilemma faces those executives that would draft policies, lobby legislatures and actively work to increase prison populations in the United States and around the world.
A little over a year ago, NPR reported that Arizona’s controversial SB1070 (“The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”), was drafted by private prison company lobbyists (through ALEC), and delivered to an Arizona congressman, at his request, who introduced the draft legislation into the Arizona House virtually word-for-word. Following introduction of SB1070, some 36 legislators immediately co-sponsored the bill (apparently unheard of in Arizona) with NPR reporting that 33 of those legislators received substantial campaign contributions from the private prison lobby. As reported by Professor César Cuauhtémoc Garcìa Hernàndez the newest profit stream for the private prison industry appears to be illegal immigrants. Recent reports indicate the federal funding for programs targeting “criminal aliens” has increased significantly in recent years, and a concomitant rise in arrests and imprisonment has followed. Most of these “criminal alien” arrests have been for illegal entry.
The notion that private prison company executives are working furiously to increase prisoner populations and are lobbying legislators to affirmatively imprison more Americans has been challenged over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Private prison leadership argues that they are simply working for privatization of the prison industry, not in favor of measures that increase incarceration rates. Professor Alexander “Sasha” Volokh supports this particular argument in his Stanford Law Review piece.