From the Editor
by Paul Wright
For the past 27 years we have reported on the private prison industry and its expansion. Despite a lot of rhetoric and dire or optimistic predictions (depending on who was making them at the time and their financial relationship with for-profit prison companies), the private prison industry has been largely stagnant in the past decade or so, controlling only about 8% of the nation’s prison population.
Companies like CoreCivic (formerly CCA) and GEO Group have made incredible profits confining immigrant detainees under sweetheart contracts that pay them much higher amounts for housing a fairly docile population. Given the vast over-classification of prisoners requiring maximum security, the pool of prisoners available to private prisons is somewhat limited. As previously reported in PLN, the private prison industry’s biggest fiascos have resulted from their attempts to run minimum- and medium-security facilities, where rapes, murders, escapes, riots and other assorted mayhem has resulted in unwanted media attention.
With the nation’s prison population in very modest decline, and the immigrant detainee population stubbornly refusing to grow despite President Trump’s best efforts, the for-profit prison industry is now expanding into “rehab” and reentry programs. We will see how well they fare. On the one hand, community corrections has a fairly stable pool of prisoners with regular turnover and low to minimum security levels, who are less expensive to house. On the other hand, it tends to be a population with high potential for drug use, escapes and resulting crimes, which may incur both legal and political liability.
At another level, the monetization of rehab and reentry programs reveals how easy it is to co-opt the meaningless rhetoric of criminal justice reform, which both normalizes the American police state while reinforcing the view that the transfer of public wealth (aka taxes) to private companies is somehow beneficial to anyone but corporate owners and shareholders.
I would like to thank everybody who donated to our annual fundraiser this past year (and we welcome donations the rest of the year as well), which not only allowed us to move to a new office but also to hire a full-time staff reporter to investigate and report on criminal justice issues that are not being covered by the mainstream media. Our new hire is starting soon and we will include an update in next month’s issue. We have finally moved into our new office space, and as soon as we get the outdoor sign finished we plan to print a photo in PLN.
Our new publication, Criminal Legal News, continues to grow and we have expanded the page count from 40 to 48 pages. Each issue is packed with information concerning criminal case law, litigation against police and prosecutors nationwide, and related investigative news articles. CLN also carries our coverage about sentencing, parole, probation and the death penalty. We are very excited about how quickly the magazine has grown; subscription information is included in this issue of PLN. Please consider subscribing to Criminal Legal News if you are interested in reading about criminal case law or policing and prosecutorial issues.
Thank you for your support of PLN, CLN and our parent organization, the Human Rights Defense Center.