Private Prisons


Solutions for Texas Effective solutions for the Texas criminal justice system from the ACLU


"Private prisons thrive on cheap labor and the hunger of job-starved towns...

"Arizona... the private prison lobby... recently succeeded in getting the industry exempted from most state taxes. Private prison companies lure state-employed guards by offering short-term bonuses and pay raises. They do not dwell on the fact that, unlike the unionized state prison guards... private guards receive a benefits package that in the long term is virtually worthless. For a few thousand dollars in ready cash, the newly hired private guards give up the possibility of a lifelong guaranteed retirement income...

"...proponents telling local communities that building detention facilities is practically a patriotic duty... They don't tell the communities the companies make a profit on the margins, and that profit relies on low wages and poor job training...

"...Texas has the most private prisons and holding facilities...

"...at a private facility in Florence... the prison's staff were ordered to arbitrarily tear-gas inmates; ... prisoners were locked up in isolation units without the correct administrative procedures being followed;... senior officers were hired who had been fired from state prisons for having sex with inmates and smuggling contraband. Inside other prisons, such as the CCA facility in Youngstown, Ohio, staff abuse of inmates was so manifest that state and federal agencies ultimately yanked their contracts and left the facility empty...

"Many small states have chosen to export large numbers of their prisoners to out-of-state private facilities rather than bear the cost of building their own new prisons...

"At the same time, many impoverished counties have in recent years essentially converted themselves into for-profit prison speculators... have issued bonds to build prisons and immigrant detention centers... trying to woo prisoner contracts by offering rock-bottom prices...

"Amazingly, when it comes to county prison building, and private prison company brazenness, Pecos doesn't top out the scale. A slew of even poorer, more sparsely populated Texas counties, have recently been effectively hijacked by extraordinarily aggressive prison companies that have convinced the commissioners to build prisons and holding facilities on spec... In each instance, the private company has essentially built in the right to walk away from the project, at no cost to itself, should the prisoners and the money not start flowing in... the private companies and their middlemen routinely make huge profits from advance payouts of the money raised from gullible private investors by the bond issue...

"...another rolled-barbed-wire-surrounded concrete scar on the West Texas scrub. Another symbol of the new priorities and the new economic realities reshaping an increasingly hollowed-out America..." (Sasha Abramsky. "Incarceration, Inc." The Nation, July 19, 2004: 22-25).


Colby Glass, MLIS