In which industry that has ever been profit generating, does a firm profit from their failure? The United States has a mass incarceration problem. With 25% of the world prison population residing in the US, spending on detention costs the US government $80 billion annually. Over 50% of the individuals incarcerated in America are of black or Latino descent. This massive growth in the incarcerated population of America began in the 1970s and with the passive support of American citizens has created an industry whose players profit from the detention of people. Currently, the privately run detention facilities in the United States hold 7% of state prisoners, 18% of federal prisoners, and nearly 75% of ICE's undocumented detainee population. The detention of people for profit is an idea rooted in the same profit motive that allowed the institution of slavery to flourish. However even after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S., the oppressive forces behind slave-era economics have been perpetuated through legislation and policies that continued the stratification of society and reinforcement of the social order. With the help of corporate lobbyists, political action committees, and organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate shareholders of private prisons, such as CoreCivic and The GEO Group, are able to directly align their profit-driven interests with those of federal and state legislators. By the incorporation of legislation and policy into state and federal law, the shareholders of private prisons are able to directly affect legislation as well as their own potential for profit. The justification for the usage of private prisons is thought to be seen in the price savings and flexibility that it provides for federal and state governments. However, due to the law enforcement contractor's exemption from public record laws, there is no clear evidence of where the cost savings occur, or even if there are cost savings at all. Is it ethical for a for-profit-prison corporation to be responsible for the care, security, and rehabilitation of an individual, when if they fail to rehabilitate the individual, it will add to the number of inmates under their control? The measure of a prison's failure to rehabilitate an inmate is considered the recidivism rate, and is affected when an inmate leaves a detention facility, commits another crime, then is arrested. This profit motive is causing our society to incarcerate increasing numbers of people in private prisons. For-profit prisons financially benefit from long-term incarceration and recidivism. The passive investments from public and private employees and institutions through investment corporations are the legs that allow the private prison industry to stand. Twenty-nine investment firms, such as The Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments, own nearly two-thirds of the two largest players in the private prison industry. This includes the passive investments by public institutions such as the Arizona State University Foundation's $600 million endowment fund as well as the $500 million directly invested into CoreCivic and GEO Group from the University of Texas/ Texas A&M Investment Management Company. The goal of abolishing private prisons will require years of litigation against the giants of the industry as well as the governmental entities supporting them. However, we can start today by demanding divestiture by our school and similar institutions as well continuing to share the knowledge of the oppressive forces associated with the detention of individuals for profit.
- Prisoners for Profit: The Private Prison System Should Be Abolished