I have long disliked the idea of privatizing the prison system.
Whether it’s state prisons or throughout the federal system, the notion of turning the incarceration of convicted criminals over to for-profit business simply strikes me as wrong.
The U.S. Justice Department has decided to end its relationship with private prison companies … to which I offer a hearty cheer.
“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates wrote.
I am not going to challenge any of that here.
I simply want to say — as I’ve noted before over many years in journalism — that my opposition to private prisons rests mainly as a matter of principle.
We ask our police departments to protect us from criminals; we pay officers’ salaries with our tax money. We ask the state and county district attorneys to prosecute suspects; we pay them for that, too. We then demand justice in our courts; and we pay judges’ salaries as well.
Then, when criminal defendants are convicted, we are able to farm out their incarceration to private businesses? The way I see it — and I’m open to discussion on this — the state has an obligation to finish the job that public entities began back when the suspect is arrested and charged with committing a crime.
That job ought to include keeping these individuals locked up. It also ought to include full public scrutiny of the job they are doing — on our behalf.
Texas hands over a fair amount of its incarceration responsibilities to private firms. I don’t expect the state to follow the feds’ lead in getting rid of private prisons.
However, I always can hope.