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/

 

“A Healthy Society Shouldn’t Only Have One Voice” – Doctor Li, who sounded the alarm on coronavirus dies of the illness

“一个健康的社会不应该只有一种声音。“  ——李文亮

The coronavirus has killed at least 565 people and infected more than 28,000. The total number of cases in the U.S. was 12 as of Thursday morning, in six different states, but the outbreak is still focused largely in central China.

Doctor Li Wenliang, the “whistleblower,” one of the first Chinese doctors who tried to warn fellow medics of the coronavirus outbreak, died of the disease at the age of 34. China National Health Commission (NHC) expressed its deep condolences over Li’s death on Friday.

Doctor Li was the first to disclose unknown pneumonia in his classmate’s WeChat group. He warned fellow clinicians in a group chat in December about a SARS-like illness popping up in one of Wuhan’s main hospitals, BBC News reported. He was then told by government officials to stop “making false comments.”

After Doctor Li was diagnosed with pneumonia that is caused by coronavirus in January, he was lauded on Chinese social media as a hero for speaking out. During the interview by the mainland media “Caixin.com.”, Doctor Li said, “I’m not regretful and I think a healthy society shouldn’t only have one voice. I just hope I can feel better soon so I can go back to work and help more people.” But he didn’t make it. 

Doctor is a respectful hero, his death woke Chinese people up and thought: what’s wrong with our society? Why was the whistleblower, the hero that fought with the virus was being not understood by the government? Why does our society only have and is only allowed to have one voice? 

Chinese people are mourning the passing of a hero for speaking out and fighting against the illness. Meanwhile, people are also proposing Chinese government to apologize to Doctor Li and give people the reason for blocking the news and blackmailing Doctor Li.  

“Hey Friends, I may not be able to response you guys’ texts, cuz I’m gonna save the world.” – Quote from Li Wenliang’s blog, post on 2012.12.21

Thank you, Doctor Li, R.I.P.

First, a Daily Dose of Doggies

Some days feel like this:
Or this:

So take a moment to cheer up with these

and remember this:

____        ____        ____         ____

Whoever chose the performers at the 2020 halftime and decided what they did on stage was brilliant. Because the watchers who are silent–silent about what the show imitates of the horror being forced upon children and families in America–silent about the lack of human rights–silent about the memo that having a voice that is powerful enough together to create change–are being heard. People are showing the silent people that their lack of certain values is most definitely not welcome. Anger is–and should continue–being thrown at the silent because they outcry about exposed skin instead of about the inhumane treatment of people in America.

You can say that shouting on social media doesn’t make much of an impact. But it can be the start of an impact. Fan the flame of this shouted conversation that has been taking place since the beginning of injustice–the halftime show did. (Leo DiCaprio did it for the conversation on climate change when he won an Oscar. Emma Watson does it for gender equality). Many other people use their fame or events to fuel conversation and create change. Many more not famous people create a platform and change daily.

Anyone can see at a glance online whose values align (or don’t) with theirs. This creates a supportive network. Fueling the fire every now and then keeps this communication in place. And who knows what can be done with this network–what actions can spark, then–ignite.

Written by S. Ward for NPAD 460: Marketing and Social Media, Spring 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#termination

The fervor of the nationalism sweeping the US since the inauguration of a new President has been unsettling. I wrote a letter to my fellow Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes the day after the election (see below), asking for us to prepare for the worst. After a month of the new administration, I should have written a letter to the Tribal Nations as well. We are being set up for termination. I am not stating termination in the manner of policies of the late 40’s and early 50’s. Each administration has constructed a new path towards our elimination. The newest group could very well place some trust land in non-indigenous hands. Here is my plea to my fellow indigenous members of Turtle Island.

Sisters and Brothers,
I am writing today as we are on the verge of another attempt to assimilate us. The confirmation of a new Secretary of Interior is not the windfall that some Tribal members would have us believe. As he arrived, for his first day of work on a horse named, Tonto, (the irony lost on many) the new Secretary assumed management of the lives of Native Nations throughout America. He has been validated by a few Tribal leaders while given the wait and see approach by much of Native land. Those few who are optimistic have a reason as oil, gas, and coal are now front and center. Those who are too isolated for big time casinos have a chance to assert their sovereign rights in the name of sustainability.
We need to guard against destroying what little we have for a short-term fix. Yes, exploiting natural resources will be profitable. At what cost are we willing to pay? When have we ever done anything, which didn’t profit non-members more? When the time to clean the inevitable mess, who foots that bill? Answer me those questions with the same sustainable tongue. Oil, gas, and coal will aid a couple generation at the most. We are not Big Oil so we cannot assume the same treatment they receive after destroying an exploited area. Any monetary gains will be used to clean the mess. Government aid will be mysteriously absent. Those Tribes who destroyed their land will back to where they are now if not worse.
Where am I going with this and how does this concern the new Secretary of Interior? When the Native American Energy Act (NAEA) was passed the inexperienced then-US Representative from Montana was one of those championing the bill. “This bill represents a significant step for tribes across the country, especially in my state of Montana. I have only been in this seat for a short time and I can tell you that the government, the federal government, has infringed on the sovereignty of our tribes to develop their own natural resources. What is sovereignty? Sovereignty is not going through a labyrinth of rules that are far greater than other federal lands or state lands. It’s not right.” (Kader, 2015) Damn, after reading that, I almost want to sell out my family for some small pox blankets.
The new administration is full of Big Oil people and the NAEA will be their entrance to our land. If you believe those Big Oil politicians are going to construct windmills and solar farms, you are sorely mistaken. The rules were relaxed not for our benefit but those greedy oil barons, eager to dig into the last bit of the Turtle’s soul. They are here to strip, rape and terminate as they have done since first Tribal/non-tribal contact. Remember those Water Protectors: Elders, young folk, sisters, brothers, cousins and others who stood up at Standing Rock. This is not our way. There are other ways to sustain your people, be innovative.

Written the day after “he who should not be mentioned” won.
My fellow CSKT Tribal members,
I am writing today because I believe we need to start planning. We are again about to live through another Republican administration. As we know, those years can be very lean on funding, especially with the Presidency, Senate and House of Representatives all having Republican majorities, the outlook is not ideal to say the least. So, as a Nation of three Tribes we need to plan for the worst while still building for the future. The tasks we need to perform will be difficult so let us try and be united as we move forward.
I am unsure where we will start but some tough decisions will need to be made which will anger some. These choices should be discussed thoroughly but promptly with each Council member holding several public gatherings. During the gatherings, our obligation is to explore what services we need, what services that have the potential to be unfunded, those services which will see cuts but are essential thus needing capital from within, and how are we going to restructure our resources to cover the capital needed to survive.
I cannot stress the importance of everyone’s participation. We must not leave these decisions to the select 10 voted into Council. They are not miracle workers, just everyday people like you and me. We should not force them to make conclusions which affect over 8500 members alone. Also, Council should not believe they have all the remedies, asking for help does not make you any less of a leader. Again, not everyone will be satisfied but I hope all will participate.
We must trust those who have been through this before as well as those who have new ideas. We cannot continue to be afraid of the new, I am sure there are methods which allow us to refurbish old systems. We know some of these systems need to be changed or replaced. Why not perform these tasks now before the storm?
Only together can we weather the oncoming storm.

Best Regards,

Jim R. O’Neill

References of interest:
Rep. Ryan Zinke Connects With Montana Indians, Could Be Next House Speaker
Controversy brews as House takes up Native American Energy Act
TRIBAL COALITION PREDICTED ZINKE WOULD BE TRUMP’S INTERIOR SECRETARY LAST MAY
Frequently Asked Questions

Montana: by a Northern Californian

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-8-47-46-amIt is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).

“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan

“Sacramento, California!” – Me

“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan

“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me

Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”

I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.

By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor