A loud ‘no!’ on private prisons

Ten of the 25 Democrats running for president have touched tonight on an issue that hits one of my hot buttons: private prisons.

I oppose the concept, the principle, the very idea of farming out the incarceration of prisoners to for-profit companies. My reasons aren’t commonly expressed by politicians who share my views on private prisons.

My take is this:

If we’re going to spend public money to pay police officers to arrest criminal suspects, then spend public money to pay prosecuting attorneys to win convictions in publicly funded courtrooms, then we ought to finish that loop by spending public money to incarcerate these individuals.

Whether they commit white-collar crimes, or any sort of violent crime — and that includes capital crimes — a society that insists on spending enough money to arrest and prosecute criminals should also insist on providing sufficient funds to hold them behind bars for as long as their sentence allows.

Some politicians — and that includes the president of the United States — keep espousing in public the idea that private prisons are somehow OK.

They are not OK, in my humble view. We need to ensure full public accountability for the manner in which they are housed. Private prisons certainly are subject to public review. I just believe it is imperative that we keep that duty in the hands of public institutions, whether it’s at the county, state or federal level.

I’ve never had a problem with building prisons when the lockups get too crowded. Nor do I have a problem with ensuring that the public fulfills its responsibility to the individuals who have paid for their arrest and prosecution.

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