Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Profit Prisons Die In Recessions - Editorial

The Gazette

The economic drain of for-profit cages

The taxpayer subsidy of Colorado’s for-profit prisons will decline $19.9 million this fiscal year, and $25.3 million in 2010-11. This is great news, and an unintended gift of recession. The sooner private prisons die on the vine, the better off we’ll be.

As this column so frequently states, private enterprise usually performs better than government. Most private schools and colleges out-perform their government peers, because competition for revenue drives high performance. Most private restaurants far exceed the quality of the government cafeterias found in courthouses, hospitals and schools. Private health insurance is better than Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare. Private transportation is more convenient and flexible than public transportation.

Rarely does this column suggest the private sector avoid a service in order to leave it all for government. Government, however, is the best provider of a few societal needs. While the country’s taxpayer-funded nuclear arsenal resulted from tremendous participation by the private sector, control of taxpayer-owned weapons of mass destruction should be a government function.

Prisons, like national defense, should be the responsibility of government. Prisons are necessary evils, posing pure expense to society. A prison is like the broken window described by the late economist Frederic Bastiat, who explained that some mistake a broken window for economic development. A broken window requires replacement, after all, which puts money into the hands of a glazier. The broken window, however, causes nothing more than redistribution of cash. The owner of the window had to spend money just to end up where he had been, with an intact window. If the window had remained whole, he could have spent the money on a new suit. The broken window caused no net gain in wealth; the new suit, sans the broken window, caused a net gain in wealth. If the glazier’s benefit were a benefit to society, it would behoove those interested in economic growth to spend their days breaking windows, rather than improving lives with constructive endeavors. Because broken windows are liabilities, we punish vandals who break glass.

A prison, like a broken window, is pure liability. It houses persons, at great expense to society. If these prisoners were functional and law-abiding citizens, they would produce wealth for society rather than burdening the productive class. Societies should enact all measures imaginable to minimize prison populations, just as we minimize broken glass, without endangering the public. Minimizing prison populations means viewing prisoners realistically for what they are: societal liabilities and nothing more.

The prisoner is to a private prison corporation what a broken window is to a glazier: a source of cash. What’s good for the glazier is not good for society. What’s good for the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest prison business in the country, is not good for society.

Anyone involved in the criminal justice system should be in the business of reducing crime, and thus the prison population. We must reward government employees for finding ways to reduce recidivism by reforming those prisoners capable of reform.

Private prison investors, however, receive no reward unless crime and recidivism flourish. Prudential Securities acknowledged this in a report to investors in the 1990s, when Corrections Corporation of America was growing aggressively: “It takes time to bring inmate population levels up to where they cover costs,” the report sated. “Low occupancy is a drag on profits... company earnings would be strong if CCA succeeded in ramping up population levels in its new facilities at an acceptable rate.”

The private prison industry wants to eliminate crime like the seller of auto glass wants to eliminate gravel trucks.

State officials have embarked upon cutting millions from Colorado’s corrections budget, which spells the early release of qualifying prisoners who are within six months of completing their sentences. The prisoners who get early release are making room for state officials to begin taking prisoners from the businesses run by CCA, which diverts money from Colorado to its headquarters in Tennessee.

CCA houses more than 4,300 Colorado prisoners in three Colorado profit prisons. The company operates a fourth profit prison in Colorado to house only convicts from Arizona.

Prisoners are not assets. They are societal liabilities, and a responsibility of government. Only those on the receiving end of a government redistribution scheme view prisoners as profit potential. As Colorado government adjusts its budget in response to severe recession, let’s hope the for-profit prison racket finally ends.


Barney said...

Fact is, there are currently 9 private prison facilities in Colorado now (Bent, Crowley, Cheyenne Mtn, High Plains, Heurfano, Kit Carson [recently doubled bed space], North Fork, Walsenburg, and Hudson[brand new]). There are 7 that house Colorado inmates; Walsenburg which houses Arizona inmates; and new one that was just completed kind of on the QT at Hudson that is set to house 1250 Alaskan inmates. Believe you/me, they are definitely "for profit" and do have an influence on how many inmates are imprisoned in Colorado. Just as an example, staff has the largest say of who gets paroled and who gets placed in Community Corrections by virtue of the recommendation of the case worker (it's kind of like the power a DA carries in sentencing - all powerful). So, fewer people paroled or released to ComCor, more prisoners, more jobs, and more profit. I would about guarantee you they are not the ones doing early releases (except as they are forced to do so), but rather the state owned facilities. They will lose their inmate population as state owned faacilites will be kept full by moving inmates from private facilities to state owned facilities.
They not only make the profit from the state, they profit huge amounts on over-priced commissary, phone calls, Jpay, and general misappropriation of inmate funds. Also, many of the items produced in prison work areas are sold for profits. Trust me, it is a profitable business and not a public service done out of the kindness of anyones' hearts. They do not continue spending millions and millions of dollars building prisons for the fun of it. There is big money in that industry.

Ahma Daeus said...

Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to "job-out" its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing "The Single Voice Petition"

Please visit our website for further information: http://www.npsctapp.blogspot.com

–Ahma Daeus
"Practicing Humanity Without A License"…

Anonymous said...

I agree with both but what Barney says about profits hits it on the head. To stop it we need to look at the legislative statutes passed that are making it possible. Then see which legislatures sponsored the rotten laws, then do a lawsuit against those practices which are allowing profit. Its called extortion of credit and we, familys of inmates are being robbed every time we use DOC services to help our loved ones. I am a member of Familys Voice for Inmates and we are working on bringing a class action suit. We are a non profit group of people from all over the USA. At the appropriate time we will post ads in Colorado newspapers asking you to join us.djw

Anonymous said...

I would like to know more about Familys Voice for Inmates. A Google search shows nothing with that name.

Anonymous said...

DJW... I too would appreciate more information on Family's Voice for Inmates. Could you post a link to their website or post information on how we can contact them and join to have our voices heard.


Anonymous said...

I thank all for your interest in Familys Voice for Inmates, and yes we want all of you who fit in with your own personal storys to join with us at the appropriate time. That time is soon aproaching.
We havent posted a web site as we currently do not maintain an office. We currently personally fund our activitys. I believe you all no how class action suits are funded. I have been personally making contacts with lawmakers, family members of inmates, attorneys and have compiled volumes of information on the subject of criminal justice at all levels. I have many helpers in all walks of life. We are currently searching for the right attorney to lead a Civil Rico lawsuit which will address the issues of extortion of credit as well as the abuse of powers by officials. Yes, we want all to join in and help us put a stop to, constitutional abuses such as Mandatory Parole, and the extortion of our credit by DOC. Please be patient, i said, you will all hear from us at the appropriate time and that is coming soon. We will need a lot of volunteer help and all your input. Thanks.djw

Marcia said...

djw. Thanks for explaining. I will be fully involved once you active. This will be v-e-r-y interesting!

Count me in!