This is one of those topics that irks me, so I take a breath and hopefully give as compassionate and fair a commentary as possible. The topic is Prison Privatization.
I know the consciousness of KSER listeners, so I know there are plenty of you who are also saddened by the state of our prison system. It hits the core of the heart doesn’t it, this ancient idea of locking away our brothers and sisters, with more focus on fear, punishment and profits than restoration and rehabilitation.
I am not disagreeing that some people need to be locked away, maybe forever in some cases, but we have gone way too far with this punishing and profit based system.
You see, on some level we know we are locking ourselves away. Really, any of us is just a bad break away from a mistake or bad judgment and we could land ourselves in jail, where often things spiral downwards, as that person now takes on the label of prisoner or deserving or bad or evil, deserving of whatever happens in prison.
Currently, prison and immigrant detention policies and practices violate basic human rights and dignity. Private companies are making billions of dollars from incarceration and are working feverishly to expand the systems, build more prisons, add more beds, and create more criminals. This is a fear and profit based system. Through years of lobbying in Washington, DC, and millions spent on public misinformation campaigns, prison profiteers have created the perception that we are unsafe, and that more prisons and beds need to be built. And when we build more prisons and install more beds, we tend to fill them, which is interesting.
I guess it’s like focusing on war with a bloated military budget; we tend to use those weapons we build. And again, seems like fear and profit tie in very nicely here, whether we are talking military or prison budgets. Keep the public afraid, and maintain the idea of enemies that can hurt you or your family. But again, we are fighting against our own family!
Meanwhile, this ignores some facts, that many areas of crime have actually fallen in recent years. Also, private run systems have some flies in the ointment, are not as efficient as argued, often including prisoner degradation, and costing tax payers lots more money.
Most violations are actually victimless. Along with minor crimes, detaining immigrants is the most profitable form of incarceration in the US, which is the world’s leader in imprisonment, 60 billion spent annually to keep 2.4 million people behind bars, which is about 1 of every 100 adults in America.
As always though, I am hopeful. As we get the word out about the true cost of privatization of prison system. As we break down the walls and connect ourselves to the suffering and inhumane conditions in our prisons, and as we move from a focus on punishing and profit model to restorative justice, we will move ever more in more humane direction. In the meantime, let’s keep breathing deeply, keep our eyes and ears open, speak our truth, and know that we can create a much more safe, fair, evolved, and compassionate system.