The U.S. detention system shall be completely nationalized and operated by the government, with no place for privately-owned penitentiary institutions. The administration of justice shall be performed impartially, without any room for the considerations of profitability.
Private prisons’ existence represents the commodification of imprisoned individuals and punishment, causing incarceration surveillance decisions to be linked with the degree of profitability. Constitutional amendments can help address the stated issues and guarantee the absence of deviations from justice, prisoners’ human rights, and the transparency principle. The prison nationalization amendment can support the government’s continuous functioning by enabling it to control punishment allocation in a manner that would emphasize institutions’ effectiveness and reduce profit-related moral barriers to just punishment.
Private Prisons’ Insufficient Correctional Effectiveness and Safety
The reasonable nature of the amendment that proposes the banning of for-profit prisons stems from such institutions’ non-existent advantage over public prisons that are heavily controlled by the U.S. authorities. Despite taking a part of responsibility from governments at different levels, private prisons fail to deliver the promised quality of service when it comes to recidivism prevention effects, making their feasibility questionable. As of 2019, for-profit prisons were responsible for managing over 8% of the U.S. incarcerated population, making privatization similar to an experiment to show such institutions’ correction-related advantages (Gaes, 2019). However, a series of studies focused on former inmates in Florida, including that by Bales et al. in 2005, did not confirm for-profit institutions’ advantage in reducing recidivism rates (Gaes, 2019). In their large-scale study of the post-release behaviors of Oklahoma medium-security prison inmates conducted in 2008, Spivak and Sharp demonstrated private facilities’ limited effectiveness (Gaes, 2019). According to the results, those exposed to for-profit institutions were up to 16.7% more likely to commit subsequent crimes (Gaes, 2019). This evidence strengthens the rationale for the proposed amendment by stressing effectiveness and uniformity.
Another component of the effectiveness-related argument for ratification is that making governmental agencies responsible for operating all prisons in the U.S. would emphasize the government’s obligation to protect its citizens by enhancing correctional institutions’ security. There is evidence to support the banning of private correctional facilities due to the latter’s poor ability to maintain the necessary security levels to protect both inmates and staff members from violence. Lamparello’s 2016 study and the reports by the Bureau of Justice Assistance demonstrate private prisons’ greater assault incidence levels (Marko, 2021). Based on these sources, private prisons’ assault rates, including inmate-on-inmate violence and assaults on staff members, tend to be between three and five times higher than in public correctional institutions (Marko, 2021). These research findings suggest that, even with governmental control, delegating the responsibility for operating prisons to any private entities can run counter to the promotion of citizens’ safety and the prohibition of unusually cruel punishments.
Ethical Concerns and the Room for Corruption
With a totally nationalized prison system, the U.S. would get rid of a crucial moral barrier to the administration of fair punishment, such as the opportunity to profit from inmates. Private institutions’ greater engagement in unethical inmate treatment practices has been widely criticized. Subject matter experts, including Robert Craig and Andre Cummings, argue that prison privatization represents a reincarnation of the convict leasing system and resembles slavery as prison corporations are paid for each incarcerated individual (Marko, 2021). One problematic aspect of private institutions’ opportunities for revenue generation is that prison corporations are allowed to keep most of the money earned by prisoners as part of work programs (Hernández, 2019; Marko, 2021). This fact alone creates the reason to be interested in exploiting inmates and implementing forced labor to maximize profits, which is not compatible with the fair punishment principle. The banning of for-profit correctional facilities would also eliminate private corporations’ ability to offer overpriced telephone communication or video services in violation of the Department of Justice’s accessibility principles (Marko, 2021). Therefore, the proposed amendment can improve the penitentiary system’s moral excellence by removing the profitability component.
Imposing an insurmountable ban on correctional institutions’ privatization might also reduce the room for corruption and bribery in the government. Since private prisons are paid for each inmate, it is logical that they would be interested in making inmates’ sentences longer, which sometimes causes the readiness to engage in unlawful agreements with judges. Specifically, in the famous Kids for Cash scandal in 2008, two Pennsylvania judges agreed to impose harsher adjudications on underage citizens to keep the necessary occupancy levels at private facilities for juvenile offenders (Marko, 2021). Treating for-profit institutions as acceptable creates the incentive for such agreements and the violations of detainees’ and prisoners’ right to receive just punishment, so banning them everywhere is essential.
Finally, ratifying the proposed amendment will prevent monetary interests from interfering with the executive branch’s commitment to just and accessible punishments. Based on the available evidence, private prisons do not outperform the public corrections system in inmate safety, recidivism prevention, moral excellence, or countering corruption. Therefore, there are no valid reasons to allow the distribution of responsibility for operating penitentiary institutions between the government and any other parties.
Gaes, G. G. (2019). Current status of prison privatization research on American prisons and jails. Criminology & Public Policy, 18(2), 269-293. Web.
Hernández, D. (2019). Corruption behind bars: The egregiously corrupt though technically legal system of private detention in the United States exploits immigrants, lining the pockets of jailers while incentivizing government enforcement strategies. NACLA Report on the Americas, 51(2), 134-140. Web.
Marko, K. (2021). Serving the public good? A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of private prisons and for-profit incarceration in the United States. Frontiers in Communication, 6, 1-16. Web.