Here's a closer look at why we believe Mississippi should eliminate for-profit prisons:
PROFIT MOTIVE: In order to make money for their shareholders, for-profit prisons have an inherent financial incentive to lock up as many people as possible, keep them there as long as they can, and make sure they return after their release.
The for-profit prison industry’s contracts with Mississippi stipulate that they must keep a certain percentage of the prisons full, creating a guaranteed cash flow for the industry and keeping our incarceration rate high.[i]
These contracts also stipulate certain cost “savings,” which obligate the private prisons to cut services, staff and other important areas. These cost “savings” often result in abysmal medical attention and care; physical abuse and other safety issues; inadequate training, low pay, and high turnover of corrections staff, as well as chronic understaffing.[ii]
BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION: The for-profit operation of prisons by private companies has incentivized corruption and fosters a culture of bribery in Mississippi.
On February 25, 2015, former Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps admitted to accepting kickbacks from the private prison industry.[iii]
In 2011, Chris Epps said he couldn't get rid of Mississippi's private companies running prisons "because of all the money they spread around Jackson."[iv]
The private prison industry has donated nearly $100,000 to state and federal political candidates.[v]
Corrections officers make roughly $22,000/year and often accept bribes from inmates for drugs, weapons and information in order to make ends meet.[vi]
HUMAN RIGHTS: Human rights violations, abysmal care, and malnutrition plague Mississippi prisons that have been run by for-profit companies.
Several successful lawsuits have been brought against the East Mississippi Corrections Facility (currently run by MTC and formerly GEO). In one of these lawsuits, a doctor mentioned, “There was not a single medical chart I opened … that did not immediately reveal multiple serious examples of dangerous to life-threatening defects in health care….Every aspect and dimension of health care delivery at EMCF is dysfunctional.” [vii]
In March 2011, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves entered an order finding that the conditions at privately run Walnut Grove "paint a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.” The judge went on to say the prison "has allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk."[viii]
SAFETY: Not only are the conditions inside Mississippi’s for-profit prisons dangerous for inmates, they’re also dangerous for corrections officers and local communities.
A nationwide study found that assaults on guards by inmates were 49 percent more frequent in private prisons than in government-run prisons. The same study revealed that assaults on fellow inmates were 65 percent more frequent in for-profit/private prisons.[ix]
Another study concluded that, "Privately operated prisons appear to have systemic problems in maintaining secure facilities" concluding that for-profit/private prisons have significantly more escapes, homicides, assaults, and drug abuse compared to government-run prisons.[x]
On May 20, 2012, a corrections officer was killed at CCA-operated Adams County Correctional Facility.[xi]
In October 2014, guards employed at MTC-operated Wilkinson County Correctional Facility appear to have been complicit in the murder of one inmate by another.[xii]
In 2012, a corrections officer was stabbed in the back at MTC-operated Walnut Grove Correctional Facility.[xiii]
FINANCIAL: There is no real evidence that private prisons are more cost effective than state-run facilities.[xiv]
The private prison industry often points to discredited academic research claiming that they provide similar services at a lower cost to the state. Facing ethics complaints, one such study – which was partly financed by the private prison industry – has recently been recalled by the academic institution that originally sponsored it and has disciplined the authors for failing to disclose the sources of their funding.[xv]
Mississippi spent $389 million on corrections in 2014, the third highest expenditure in the state budget. Corrections costs have consistently increased in the state despite claims from the private prison industry that they’re saving the state money.[xvi]
RELIGIOUS GROUPS: Numerous religious groups have condemned the perverse incentives inherent in for-profit incarceration—including the absence of incentives to devote resources to rehabilitation. According to the Private Corrections Working Group, statements by religious groups in opposition to private prisons include the following:[xvii]
Catholic Bishops Resolution (2000): “We bishops question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behaviors, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for reintegration into the community.”
Presbyterian Church USA (2003): “Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison system. We believe that this is a glaring and significant flaw in our justice system and that for-profit private prisons should be abolished.”
United Methodist Church (2000): “The United Methodist Church declares its opposition to the privatization of prisons and jails and to profit making from the punishment of human beings.”
Episcopal Church Acts of Convention (2000): “Be it Resolved, That the Episcopal Church at all levels become active at local, state and federal levels on public policy decisions affecting the growing prison industrial complex; and be it further Resolved, That the Episcopal Church call for a moratorium on further prison construction and the use of private prisons.”
[v] http://www.followthemoney.org/show-me?d-eid=1096&s=MS, http://www.followthemoney.org/show-me?s=MS&d-eid=695, http://www.followthemoney.org/show-me?s=MS&d-eid=44236
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