Private Prisons Are Unethical, Dysfunctional, and Should Be Closed

Private Prisons Should Be Closed

When a father went to visit his son in a private prison, the staff told him his son was not there and that they didn’t know where he was.  After 6-weeks, he found his son in a local hospital.  His son had suffered severe brain damage and now has the mental capacity of a two-year old.  He was injured in a brawl that investigators found was instigated by a guard who was running a prison fight club.

If you were incarcerated, wouldn’t you want the state to ensure your safety and that your rights would not be abused?  As taxpayers, you should be concerned about how your money is used to fund these unsafe and inefficient private prisons. From the research I have gathered, it is apparent that the use of private prisons has too many trade-offs to be considered viable due to their widespread issues of cost effectiveness and mistreatment of prisoners. Throughout this post, I’ll explain the advantages of ending the use of private prisons, which are: an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding.

In the U.S., not all prisons are run by the government.  Some are operated by private companies that the government pays to house prisoners.  The three largest companies are the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation.  Operations of these prisons are handled by these companies instead of the government.

The first advantage is that public prisons would focus more on rehabilitation than private prisons because the government does not benefit from repeat offenders. Private prisons claim they can lower recidivism (reoffending) rates with state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs. However, according to Anita Mukherjee’s August 10, 2016, study in the Social Science Research Network, prisoners in Mississippi’s private prisons recidivated no less than public prisoners despite serving more time (Mukherjee 2016). Brian Kincade cites a study of recidivism rates in private prisons in Oklahoma in his March 23, 2016, article in Smart Asset that found private prisoners recidivated 4% more than their public counterparts (Kincade 2016). State of the art rehabilitation programs would cut into corporate profits and would interfere with the steady flow of incarcerations private prisons depend on to make a profit. Public prisons do not operate to make a profit.  They have more of an incentive to properly rehabilitate prisoners to lower crime rates.  Because with lower crime rates, the government saves money and society is overall safer. Now that I’ve discussed why rehabilitation will be focused on more, I’ll explain how prisoners will be properly treated.

The second advantage is that states would directly oversee the treatment of prisoners and ensure their rights are not abused. One example of prisoner mistreatment is the conditions that led to the recent closure of a GEO Group prison in Mississippi.  The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about the conditions on their website on September 15th, 2016 (SPLC 2016). Department of Justice investigators found frequent sexual abuse, widespread violence, and that the prison was controlled by gangs with help from the guards. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves found the state was violating the rights of prisoners by not protecting them from the gang control and stated “the evidence…paints a picture of a facility struggling with disorder, periodic mayhem, and staff ineptitude which leads to perpetual danger of the inmates and staff”. These are not isolated incidents and issues like these are widespread in private prisons across the country. The federal government itself has stated that private prisons run less safely than public prisons.  An August 18th, 2016, article by Gwendolyn Wu published by TakePart cites that Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that private prisons “compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities…they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources…[and] they do not maintain the same level of safety or security.” (Wu 2016). States can provide better quality treatment to prisoners and can directly oversee that the rights that they guarantee the prisoners are not abused. Now that I’ve discussed how states will directly oversee that prisoners are treated properly; I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons will not increase costs.

The third advantage is that states would not be taking on new (long-term) costs and in many cases, states would save money by ending their use of private prisons. On paper, many private prisons seem to have a lower per diem rate (per prisoner cost) than public prisons, however they aren’t paying for the same things that states must. In his 2016 article in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Alex Friedmann lists the many ways private prisons offset their costs to the public in order for their per diem rate to appear lower than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). They tend to only house low-security healthy adult males, the least expensive type of prisoner to house.  This leaves the most expensive prisoners for the states to house. States still have to pay for medical care for prisoners in private prisons. Wages paid to prisoners in private prisons are reimbursed by the state.  In one year, the Corrections Corporation of America saved $30-66 million and the GEO Group saved $33-72 million from not paying prisoner wages. After adjusting for these factors and others, Alex Friedmann wrote in the same article that in many states private prisons were more expensive than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). States would be paying just as much if not less to house prisoners in their own prisons.  The only new cost they would be taking on would be the short-term cost of buying the private prisons that aren’t already being rented from the states. Now that I’ve explained how costs of prison operation will not increase, I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons would force officials to rethink harsh laws that have contributed to overcrowding.

The fourth advantage is that by ending the use of private prisons, companies would no longer lobby for harsh punishments, forcing officials to reevaluate tough on crime laws to deal with overcrowding. Harsh penalties for non-violent offenders are the major causes of overcrowding. Michael Cohen cites many cases of private prison companies spending millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying in his April 28th, 2015, article published in the Washington Post (Cohen 2016). The GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America have paid over $10 million in campaign contributions and over $25 million for lobbying. They lobby for laws that will punish non-violent offenders harshly and contribute to candidates who will vote for these laws and who will give the companies lucrative contracts. By eliminating the use of private prisons, government officials would no longer receive monetary incentives to harshly punish petty offenders.  Ending the use of private prisons to combat overcrowding would force lawmakers to reevaluate these severe penalties.

I’ve told you about four advantages of ending the use of private prisons; an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding. With these advantages in mind, states should end their use of private prisons. The young man I mentioned at the beginning of my speech could’ve had a brighter future if he was housed in a public prison.  Instead of suffering debilitating brain damage, he would’ve been properly rehabilitated, and after serving his time he could’ve returned to the general public and contributed to society.

 

References

Barbaric private prison in Mississippi closes its doors after SPLC lawsuit. (2016, September 15). The Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org

Cohen, Michael. (2015, April 28). How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com

Friedmann, Alex. (2016). Apples-to-fish: Public and private prison cost comparisons. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 42(2), 502-568. Retrieved from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu

Gilna, Derek. (2016, September 6). GEO Texas immigration facility hit for substandard health care and understaffing. Prison Legal News. Retrieved from https://www.prisonlegalnews.org

Kincade, Brian. (2016, March 23). The economics of the American prison system. Smart Asset. Retrieved from https://smartasset.com

Mukherjee, Anita. (2016, August 10). Impacts of private prison contracting on inmate time served and recidivism. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com

Wu, Gwendolyn. (2016, August 18). Activists to feds: closing private prisons won’t help most inmates. TakePart. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/

 

6 Best Ski Resort Near Missoula…

There are a ton of options for skiing within the western part of Montana, whether this be in our beloved home state, or one of our close neighbors. There is plenty of fresh powder to go around…

To Start off this list we are going to lay down a few guidelines. All of these ski resorts are within 200 miles of Missoula, and for those of you that were worried…They all sell beer as well.

  1. The Montana Snowbowl  (15 miles outside town)                                                    Snowbowl will always a special place in the hearts of Missoulians, for its close proximity to town, and your ability to go from class to the slopes in under 20 minutes.  While Snowbowl may have its ups and downs, you can always count on good skiing when they get some fresh snow up in the bowls. Priced at $48 for a student day pass, it’s not going to break the bank too bad. But they make up for it with $4 beers in the lodge at the base
  2. Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area (105 miles outside town)

Lookout pass ski area is known as the #1 Powder Place, and they definitely live up to that name. Lookout gets the most fresh snow out of all the resorts near Missoula, and for the most part, has pretty good weather. This resort is about an hour and 45 minutes from campus and never gets too crazy so you’ll always have a parking spot. A student day pass for Lookout will run you about $46, but the snow makes it worth it!

3. Discovery Ski Area (91 miles outside town)

Discovery ski area is located about an hour and a half from Missoula and will never let you down. With a really good mix of steep groomers and powder-filled trees, this resort is perfect for everyone. For those seeking a thrill, Discovery has an expert only backside of the mountain with some truly crazy runs. The only downfall of this resort is the road up to the lodge can get pretty bad, but you’ll always be able to find a ride up from the bottom. Discovery will run you about $50 for a day pass, but you’ll be able to go on a different run every time all day.

4. Lost Trail Powder Mountain (75 miles outside town)

Lost trail is another favorite among locals, for its close proximity to town and amazing snow. You can almost always count on fresh snow at lost trail, and when the Montana side is open it is absolutely mind-blowing. This resort is never too crazy, and it also has a hot spring just down the road for an after skiing relaxation break. A day pass will run you about $45 and you’ll be able to get food and beer at the base lodge for a pretty reasonable price.

5. Whitefish Mountain Resort (140 miles outside town)

Still known to many locals as “Big Mountain” because of the name change back in 2007, but none the less this mountain is absolutely insane. The most powder you can find in western Montana and offers some of the most diverse terrains. Even though this resort is pretty far from Missoula, it makes up for it with the beautiful views and the chance to go on an inversion day. A day pass will run you about $83 and that’s pretty steep for most college students, but a trick it to go buy 2 day passes for $120 from Costco.

6. Blacktail Mountain Ski Area (120 miles outside town)

Blacktail is known for having some serious terrain, with steep faces and ungroomed runs all over the mountain. This resort gets a good amount of powder and can definitely prove to be tough in some spots. With its close proximity to Whitefish, the resort is pretty easily accessible and doesn’t break the bank at $45 for a day pass.

A Weekend Guide to Whitefish, Montana in Winter

Wintertime in Whitefish, Montana is one of the most beautiful seasons to enjoy the small ski town and all it has to offer. This town doesn’t slow down after a winter storm, it celebrates it! Are you thinking about exploring this hidden gem for a weekend getaway? This article will give you the perfect weekend itinerary for what to see and do while you’re here.

Saturday

8:30 am – Breakfast at Buffalo Cafe

A local favorite, Buffalo Cafe offers amazing breakfast options to keep you energized for your full day ahead!

10:00 am – Ski on Big Mountain

A trip to Whitefish is never complete without a day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Endless slopes and an approachable mountain offers a day of fun for all level of skiers and snowboarders.

3:00 pm – Apres Ski at Hellroaring Saloon

After hittin’ the slopes, enjoy an apres-ski drink and nachos at Hellroaring Saloon, located next to the village on the mountain.

5:00 pm – Massage at the Spa at Whitefish Lake

You’re bound to be sore after a day on the mountain, so treat yourself to a massage at the beautiful Spa at Whitefish Lake!

7:00 pm – Dinner at Tupelo Grille

Be sure to book a table here, and be ready for one of the best meals in town. Featuring local cuisine influenced by cajun and southern flavors, the superb service completes a meal here.

Sunday

8:30 am – Breakfast at Loula’s Cafe

Loula’s breakfasts include the standard fare as well as popular originals like Lemon Stuffed French toast with raspberry sauce or Eggs Benedict with white truffle oil.

9:45 am – Pick up a Packed Lunch from Montana Coffee Traders

Before you head off for the day, pick up a packed lunch from Montana Coffee Traders. They offer a variety of sandwiches and snacks that you can bring with you to the park which is helpful because most restaurants in West Glacier are closed in the winter!

10:00 am – Drive to Glacier National Park to snowshoe

The beautiful Glacier National Park is only a 30-minute drive away from Whitefish and offers miles of scenic snowshoeing trails.  You can rent snowshoes from multiple places in town as well as outside of the park.

7:00 pm – Dinner at Abruzzo’s

Finish off your day with a delicious traditional Italian meal at Abruzzo’s. They offer extensive selection of shared plates, grilled steaks, fresh seafood, and a small but decadent dessert list, all prepared in-house and served alongside an Italian-focused cocktail program and an Italian-centric wine list.

 

 

 

 

A Veterans guide to Surviving College

This guide on Veterans in College was created by Antonio Hendricks, a student at the University of Montana, Army Veteran, devoted father, coach, and of course “Student”.

Veterans and College:

9 times out of 10 you can spot the Veteran on a College Campus, or at least the newly inundated.  They are usually the ones in the Grunt Style or Art15 shirts, camouflage back packs, patches on something, and an attitude that says they are better than you. I know this doesn’t make for a bad person, but  automatically they are separated, a person apart from the norm, and screams that person is still fully ingrained in their past.  The truth being, most of us can relate to that person, why, because we were probably them in one fashion or another.

Don’t get me wrong, a person’s military service is most likely a large portion of who they are/were and I know for me it definitely is.  But, like all things there is  a time and place for everything.

So You’ve Decided to Go to School…Now What?

 

When I started day 1 I had a thought that continually went through my mind: What the hell am I doing here??  This was immediately followed by the subsequent ideas of: Why did I decide to go to college, What am I going to study, and most of all How do I accomplish this goal? All of which were finished with: WTF??

On a more serious note, the biggest fear I have heard from other students-veterans (including myself), is the insecurity of being in the same cohort as a bunch of 18 year old, fresh out of high school kids. Are you embarrassed or ashamed of what they might think of you being the “old person” in their class, probably assuming that you failed out before? We were all worried about this at some point.

I can’t even begin to describe the amount of times those thoughts went through my mind when I first started.  I though that I had a goal, I thought I had a path to follow, and I thought most of all that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

The facts were: I didn’t know anything!!

So I did what many do, I stumbled; and then I sought advice.  Advice from people who had been where I was and could hopefully provide me some level of guidance to get me on the right path.  Using these mentors, many whom were very similar to the ones I had in the military, I found a way to navigate this new obstacle.

So……what do we do to be successful???

The things I found that have allowed me to be successful are simple, and quite honestly the same ones that got me through my time in the military!

  1. Do the Work:  I can’t tell you how simple this is and yet so many people refuse to do it.  You will constantly see people that don’t do the work and then complain about why they aren’t successful.
  2.   Be Accountable: Just like the military taught us. Be at the right place, at              the right time, with the correct stuff and you’ll never be wrong. Don’t                 worry about the people coming in 15 minutes late or not at all.  It’s your   education not theirs.
  3.  Humanize Yourself: I cant tell you the amount of times that introducing myself to a professor has allowed me to separate myself from the pack.  Showing your Professor that you care enough to have them know your name (in a good way) can make or break a person in a class and maybe help you over that hump between passing and doing really well.
  4. Ask for Help: This one is probably the hardest for anyone and for me was the hardest to get good at.  If you don’t know something ask.  If you are unsure of something ask.  If you need help…..ASK!! Recognizing that we all need help sometimes, put down the pride, or the fear and ask those around you.  Chances are they know the answer or have the same questions you do and like anything there are strengths in numbers.

 

Final Thoughts:

Is college a struggle?  Yes.

Does it take a lot of work? Yes.

Can it be made easier? Yes.

Those four things are by no means all encompassing, and for me are merely just what helped to get me through and to the point where I am at now.

Should you take the advice, that is entirely up to you, but like anything there are things that make the journey harder or easier.

Moral of the story:  Apply yourself, do everything in your power to succeed and and leave as little as possible to chance.

College even this late can be an amazing experience if you allow it to be and like the military you have the opportunity to create memories that will remain with you forever.

At the end of the day, be proud that you won’t let fear stop you. Be proud that you are willing to face the stigmas and do something for your future. And god forbid, attempt to be a mentor or a friend to some of those young kids that probably feel just as lost as you.

Bullet Journaling 101

I picked up bullet journaling my freshman year of college as a way to keep all my assignments, test dates, and personal reminders together in one place. I pretty much immediately got sucked into a hundred Pinterest pages about all the things people use their bullet journals for and now, two years later, I’ve completely filled my 200-page bullet journal! What started out as a way to get my shit together turned into a creative outlet that allowed me to track my school schedule, person schedule, birthdays, books I want to read, movies I want to watch, and even my mood. My bullet journal is a planner that I am actually committed to keeping up with because not only does it have everything I need all in one place, but I also enjoy doing it. So, if you are looking to start a bullet journal, need some page ideas, or are just curious, here are a couple of my favorite pages:

 

  1. I start the year with a year in review:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. I start every month with a “cover page” that has the month name and a quick view calendar. Here are some of my favorite cover pages:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. I then schedule out my weeks of the month. Here a couple pages that I like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. To organize my school stuff I first draw out my schedule, then I write out all the assignments and class info:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. These are some random things that I also like to track or that just make me happy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Finally, here are just some cute headers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Zuzu Rudio