More proof that are current policies need to be revamped and it needs to be done quickly. Technical violations of parole need to have cheaper alternative actions available. Mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities need to be built, not more prisons. Private prisons are going to have a stranglehold on states across the nation if priorities aren't changed.
The silence that greeted the Idaho Department of Correction's recent call for 1,100 private prison beds was further proof of what its director already knew.
"It's a seller's market. There just aren't any beds across the nation," said Brent Reinke, whose request netted one offer of 240 beds at a lockup near Dallas. He accepted.
Private facilities, either owned by for-profit companies or governments that contract out their management, for years have become an increasingly important relief valve for public systems at or near capacity.
Now the private system itself is bulging at the bars, creating a market in which beggars can't be choosers and governments in some cases are sending inmates to facilities with shaky reputations.
"There are maybe a handful of (U.S. private) facilities currently going unused right now, and they're marketing those to federal agencies and other states," said Kevin Campbell, a prison industry analyst for Avondale Partners. "There's just a lot of demand for only a few beds left."
Campbell said companies are more apt to seek big fish, such as the U.S. government or large states like California — which is 70,000 inmates over capacity — than those like Idaho or Harris County seeking far fewer beds.
With nationwide inmate populations expected to grow by 40,000 a year in the near-term, Campbell said there's no sign the system won't continue to be strained.
"Essentially, the supply side is not keeping up with demand," he said.
The reasons are many, from more stringent immigration enforcement nationally to Texas laws forcing county lockups to house state jail felons and parolees who commit technical violations of their release terms.