For-profit private prisons, jails and detention centers have a long and inglorious history in Texas. Prison profiteering compromises public safety and undermines the health, safety, and quality of life of prisoner and correctional officer alike. Research on the for-profit private prison industry and their impact on communities shows:
Prisons do not stimulate economic growth. Michelle Deitch’s article, reprinted from the Correctional Law Reporter, demonstrates that private prisons do not have a positive impact on metropolitan or rural areas, and they have actually been shown to negatively impact economic growth in slow-growing areas. There is no data supporting the claim that prison expansion will lower unemployment rates, raise median family incomes, or increase earnings.
Alternatives to prison expansion can reduce need for increased bed space. Programs such as pretrial detention screening programs and the increased use of personal bonds can reduce incarcerated populations and alleviate jail overcrowding. Because increased rates of pretrial detention are responsible for a majority of the growth in county prison populations, these programs can eliminate the need to expand county jails and build new detention facilities.
Privatized prisons are neither safer nor more secure than government-run facilities. Private prisons correspond with decreased security levels, high staff turnover, inadequate staff training and equipment, inadequate protection of prisoners’ human rights, degrading prison conditions, and poor employment standards. The list of Texas private prison scandals offers a starting point for examining the systemic problems within private facilities.
Privatized prisons are risky investments. Dr. Sean Chadwell’s article, Public Financing of Private Jails, shows how most private prison companies make money from running prisons rather than owning them. In fact, detention and correctional facilities are financial liabilities — they grow old, become obsolete, are expensive to build and maintain, and are costly to insure. Oftentimes Texas counties are left to foot the bill for these expenses — essentially offering maintenance-free money making venture to prison companies, while draining the county of its resources