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Study Details States’ Abuses of Out-Of-State Prisoner Transfers to For-Profit Prisons

Study Details States’ Abuses of Out-Of-State Prisoner Transfers to For-Profit Prisons

by Derek Gilna           

The corrections industry maintains that one of its priorities is to help detainees maintain ties with their family and communities to assist them in reintegrating back into society after their release. However, a new study, by the non-partisan Grassroots Leadership Organization, has shown that the practice of interstate transfers to for-profit facilities is contrary to that goal. Currently over 10,500 state prisoners are confined from 450 to 3,000 miles from their home in for-profit institutions, according to the study, showing that making money trumps rehabilitation.

According to the report, “the interstate transfer of prisoners to for-profit private prisons across the U.S. impedes prisoner rehabilitation, diminishes prisoners’ ties to family and community, serves the interests of an industry that views prisoners as commodities, and perpetuates our nation’s mass incarceration crisis, compromising rather than enhancing the public good and public safety.” The study further notes that as incarceration has increased in the United States over the past few decades, the “for-profit prison industry (is) a significant, yet hidden, apparatus that perpetuates mass incarceration.”

Such out-of-state transfers of state prisoners are only one facet of the insidious influence of organizations such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and the GEO Corporation, whose combined revenue in the past decades has skyrocketed to $3.2 billion in 2012, while the number of prisoners it houses has grown from just over 7,000 detainees in 1990 to over 130,000 in the past year. An industry this large has lots of money to spend on lobbying in state capitals, and previous articles in Prison Legal News have addressed that issue.

As states work to reduce their prisoner populations to save money, the for-profit prison companies have found another way to maintain their detainee counts and their revenue stream; encouraging states to transfer prisoners out-of-state. California, currently required by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce their prisoner counts due to overcrowding and poor prisoner medical care, and previously a leader in out-of-state transfers, is currently prevented from such action by prisoner-rights lawsuits. Other states that continue to house prisoners far from their home state, according to the same study, are Vermont, Idaho, and Hawaii.

The transfer of these prisoners has resulted in extreme hardships, not only for the prisoners, but for their families, whose limited financial resources make it difficult to maintain contact with incarcerated family members; these individuals are generally unable to afford out-of-state travel.

Kat Brady, a Hawaii-based prisoner advocate, decries her state’s practice of shipping their prisoners to Arizona, stating that “our people have been moved around like chess pieces, sold to the lowest bidder, in essence. I hear the anguish of families, of children who miss their daddies, of wives struggling to keep their families together and the desperation of people trying to locate their loved ones.”

The study called for states to allocate more resources to finding alternatives to incarceration, thereby reducing prisoner counts and the need to transfer prisoners far from their families, as well as legislating bans on transfers to for-profit prisons. This would go a long way to reduce what one former out-of state prisoner lamented was the “horrendous…practice of transferring inmates out-of-state…You’re taking people who, whatever support network they may have, is gone. The truth of the matter is…as an incarcerated person, you’re alone. You’re isolated.”

Source: “Locked up and shipped away,”, November 20, 2013