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End the private prison and jail industry

Fairfax, Virginia, criminal/DWI lawyer pursuing the best defense, since 1991

Aug 22, 2016 End the private prison and jail industry

Right through the last time I visited a few years ago, the District of Columbia jail was a decrepit, depressing place, among the worst-looking of the over one dozen prisons and jails I have visited.

When I visited a client at the next-door Correctional Treatment Facility jail run publicly-traded Corrections Corp of America, I saw a place that — at first blush — I would prefer any of my clients to be jailed, instead of the District of Columbia.

Nevertheless, I want private prisons and jails (collectively “Prisons”) ended. Prisonsers’ rights should not be at the mercy of corporate profit, and governments should not be permitted to avoid direct responsibility over ensuring humane prison conditions that comport with the Eighth Amendment.

Thanks to the Obama Administration for recently announcing movement towards favoring letting contracts with the federal Bureau of Prisons expire and not be renewed with private prisons. A president Hillary Clinton is more likely to keep that policy than a president Donald Trump.

The two largest private prison corporations — Corrections Corp of America and Geo Group Inc — did such a great job at responding to the Obama Administration’s policy shift, that the price of their publicly traded shares rebounded subsequent to dropping by one-third after the administration’s announcement.

The private prisons will continue being profitable even without BOP contracts, because the great majority of their business is with state prisons, supplemented with rehabilitation services.

Consequently, the Obama Administration’s shift away from private prisons for the Bureau of Prisons (as opposed to private prisons for immigration detention, which apparently is not part of the shift) can be an important talking point for urging states to end the use of private prisons.

The Justice Department’s information release about the shift away from private prisons points to the initial need for such prisons when the federal prison population started increasing in the 1980’s at a faster pace than new prisons could be built. Of course, one way to reduce the prison population and the huge costs of incarceration, is to shrink the criminal justice system, for instance by legalizing marijuana, prostitution and gambling; heavily decriminalizing all other drugs; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing; and eliminating per se guilty rules in DWI cases.

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