The Dirty Business of Private Prisons in the United States
American prisons have become a lucrative business in which the same state allows its citizens to be subjected to working conditions close to slavery.
The US prison system is now a gigantic money-making machine for private companies that run and maintain prisons, turning inmates into a lucrative cog. That is why we ask ourselves why in the United States are prisoners a business? And we find that part of the answer is the privatization of the country’s prison model.
The capital behind US prisons is no small thing. Figures from the International Center for Prison Studies (ICPS) say that the US has 4.36% of the world’s population, but holds 25% (a quarter) of all prisoners in the world. Even, the newspaper explains, the US population is only a quarter of the Chinese population, but it keeps 600,000 more people imprisoned than the Asian giant.
According to the US organization Corrections Accountability Project (CAP), whose purpose is “to dismantle the prison industrial complex and end the exploitation that exists there”, the privatization of the prison system began in 1983 when the company CoreCivic received the first contract to operate the facilities of a correctional facility and with them began the private prison industry in that country.
Just one year later, another competitor, Grupo Geo, entered the fray to take over the country’s prisons to operate them and, incidentally, offer jobs to inmates for values that would hardly be accepted by a person under normal conditions.
“Over the past 35 years, as the prison population increased from 660,000 individuals to more than 2.2 million, competitors have grown and started operating about 130 prisons with more than 150,000 beds. For 2017, CoreCivic and the GEO Group generated annual profits of more than $4,000 million (more than 12 billion Colombian pesos), through the more than 45 million individual nights that the US prison population spends in the facilities each year”, explains the 2018 report: The prison industrial complex: mapping private sector players, published by the CAP organization.
According to the investigation by the said organization, CoreCivic and the GEO Group, are only two of the most important and most recognized entities focused on profiting through the management of industrial prison complexes, since the “boom” of prisons in the United States began into the 1970s. According to the report, today, there are more than 3,000 companies related to the prison industry in the United States alone.
Today, the CAP report emphasizes, the United States allocates more than 80,000 million dollars to the penitentiary system, of which more than half are destined to contractors that support the system, such as health providers for inmates, health providers of food, etc.
However, for the CAP, the most complicated thing about the situation is that all these private companies take advantage of a dark monopoly environment that operates in a worryingly sustained way in the incarcerated population, quite vulnerable to corporate abuse.
“The two most influential companies in the prison business in the US, CoreCivic and Geo Group, have exploded with the arrival of the Republican to the White House: they have doubled in size on the stock market since then, in addition to its profit forecasts and its margins, given the possibility that Trump’s policies benefit his business. “
These companies have higher margins than hotel chains such as Marriott, one of the most important in the world and with a presence on every continent on the planet. The BBC chain also reported on this issue, just into 2018 and stated that in 2017 alone, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) allocated almost 3,000 million dollars to pay for the detention system. of foreigners who deal with cases that are pending to be resolved by the courts or whose deportation has already been agreed.
“The migration crisis unleashed by the first president of the United States, in which provisional prisons were made for migrants, uncovered the business that was hidden behind this policy that today continues to generate news throughout the world,” adds Pamela Winn.
Winn is one of the leading voices for the promotion of freedom, equal justice and the end of violence against women imprisoned. A strong and inspiring woman who rose through a 78-month federal sentence, losing her nursing license through revocation, and tragically facing a personal setback from a miscarriage.
Winn has received many accolades as a leading activist, and she goes down in the history of the United States as a governing body that has always facilitated dignity, rights, and safety of incarcerated women.
She is the founder of a charitable group named RestoreHER US.America. To facilitate imprisoned women, with a focus on incarcerated pregnant women in federal prisons, the organization is committed to supporting and conducting dialogues.
“Around 65% of the beds available to the federal government to house immigrants are in the hands of private companies. And that number is growing with the current migration crisis,” Bianca Tylek, director of the Corrections Accountability, told the BBC. Project (Detention Center Transparency Project).
According to Pacific Standard, the journalistic publication portal of the Social Justice Foundation, one of the modalities most used in prisons by private companies is the use of the prison population as a workforce.
According to a report by the foundation, inmates make up a sizeable US workforce, with nearly 870,000 inmates working, and about half of all incarcerated US citizens work full time while serving their sentence.
This model, the report denounces, was justified in the resocialization of prisoners. Still, many of the jobs that inmates have are not related to their skills and their development for life outside the prison, but the operation of the facilities.