Call For Private Prisons To Follow The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

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The Freedom of Information Act does not extend to private businesses and other entities that government agencies share work with, among these private businesses, are corporate corrections or ”for-profit” prison companies (Lipton, 2017). Three of the main private prison companies today that house federal inmates are the GEO group, CoreCivic, and Management and Training Corporations (MTC)--all of whom, are federally funded. This has resulted in a loophole that allows private prisons, who house federal inmates in "private" facilities that are federally funded, to be "legally immune" from the public accessing any information that is necessary to understand how private facilities impact prisoner rehabilitation, recidivism rates, and cost (which private prisons operate under the guise that they save the government money). From 2000 to 2009, private prisons increased the number of incarcerated individuals at every level of the justice system by 37%, according to the Department of Justice (Park, 2014).

Operating under the guise of saving the government money, the only way to lower operating cost is by cutting corners. This is reflective in hiring fewer employees and overworking them, paying them inadequate wages, offering less extensive training, and not offering adequate resources to inmates, from health-care to educational programs. A Justice Department report in 2016 found that “private prisons had a 28 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults and more than twice as many inmate-on-staff assaults, as well as twice as many illicit weapons compared to federal facilities” (Joy, 2018). These findings can be attributed to the lowered cost of operation which is reflective in the lack of control guards have, which is rooted in insufficient training and staffing. For example, correctional guards at CoreCivic are trained for a mere four weeks.

Researcher Anita Mukherjee (2017) from the University of Wisconsin School of Business secured inmate disciplinary report records from a private prison in Mississippi in 2015, revealing that private prisons issue twice as many disciplinary “tickets” than their public counterparts. In turn, inmates are likely to serve as many as two to three more months more behind bars compared to those assigned to public prisons & are equally likely to commit more crime after release, despite industry claims of lower recidivism rates through “high quality and innovative” rehabilitation programs (Mukherjee, 2017).

We, as a democratic republic, should extend concern to the privatization of prisons because they are legally immune to open records request, which means everything they do has no transparency. These men and women are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, but first and foremost, they are human beings who deserve dignity. Mixing profit with punishment has undeniably created a system where profit is worth more than the value of human life. “For-profit” prisons have no system of transparency to report to; therefore, they are legally allowed to do whatever they want within the confines of their walls while operating with the intention of maintaining a constant and steady influx of incarcerated men and women to maintain capital. Prison is not about rehabilitation--we cannot be fooled by the political rhetoric that emphasises “prisons are rehabilitating.” There is something gravely wrong in this country if we house more than 2 million people, who are predominately black, Latino, or poor. Prison serves as another profit margin for corporations who have no moral obligation to humanity and have readily exploited the Earth’s resources, low-tier work, health-care, education, and now, human beings.

We need the passage of legislation that would apply the Freedom of Information Act to federally-funded private prisons, who are corrupted and driven strictly by profit. We need transparency. If private prisons are claiming to lower recidivism rates through “high quality and innovative” rehabilitation, then what is there to hide from the public?

 

Sources: 

Federally-Funded Private Prisons Should be Subject to FOIA: FRINFORMSUM 8/10/2017. (2017, August 10). Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://unredacted.com/2017/08/10/federally-funded-private-prisons-should-be-subject-to-foia-frinformsum-8102017/

Joy, T. (n.d.). The Problem with Private Prisons - Justice Policy Institute. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from http://www.justicepolicy.org/news/12006

Kerwin, P. (n.d.). Study finds private prisons keep inmates longer, without reducing future crime. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://news.wisc.edu/study-finds-private-prisons-keep-inmates-longer-without-reducing-future-crime/

Lipton, B. (2017, July 24). Your annual reminder: FOIA still doesn't apply to private prisons. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/jul/24/foia-still-doesnt-apply-private-prisons/

Margulies, J. (2016, August 24). This Is the Real Reason Private Prisons Should Be Outlawed. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from http://time.com/4461791/private-prisons-department-of-justice/

Mukherjee, A. (2014). Does Prison Privatization Distort Justice? Evidence on Time Served and Recidivism. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2523238

Park, A. (2017, June 24). Will private prisons finally be subject to the Freedom of Information Act? Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2014/12/will-private-prisons-ever-be-subject-open-records-laws/

Pauly, M., Mother Jones, & Gilson, D. (2017, June 23). A brief history of America's corporate-run prison industry. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/history-of-americas-private-prison-industry-timeline/