Issues & Insights

President Biden Should End His Misguided Assault On Private Prisons

pxhere.com

 

President Joe Biden has garnered much media attention with his calls to improve the deeply dysfunctional criminal justice system. Unfortunately, his recent executive order scaling back the use of private prisons is anything but unifying and could mean more people incarcerated. Despite receiving a perpetually poor rap in the news, private prisons can improve inmates’ lives and deliver justice at a lower cost than the broken status-quo. It’s time for Biden to make private prisons part of the conversation on criminal justice reform.

America’s vast public prison system prioritizes perpetual punishment over preventing future crime and heartbreak. There are approximately 1.5 million Americans locked up in abysmally maintained state and federal prisons, and about two-thirds of released inmates will serve time again in the future. Unfortunately, Biden’s executive order halting any new contracts between the Department of Justice and private prisons will make matters even worse.

It’s difficult to understand why politicians put the blame on private institutions for the incarceration crisis in America, given that the overwhelming majority of incarcerations happen in government-run facilities. As Fordham University law professor John F. Pfaff noted in a recent law review article, only about 8% of U.S. prisoners are held in privately run facilities.

“Mass incarceration is a public sector affair in the United States,” Pfaff noted.

And when private parties are allowed to contract to run prisons, the results are usually better. Disruptive incidents and deaths per capita tend to be lower at private facilities, according to data provided by the Department of Justice’s inspector general. In addition, sexual assault rates (for both staff-on-inmate and inmate-on-inmate) are lower at private prisons than public facilities.

Some of the data are difficult to interpret. Contract prisons tend to report intercepting more contraband, though it is hard to say if that’s because there is more contraband in those facilities to begin with or if private companies are better at maintaining control.

The best insights come not from incomplete statistical comparisons, but rather from in-depth examinations.

The reality is that private prisons successfully deploy far more resources to deter recidivism. For instance, prominent prison contractor GEO is collaborating with the National Federation of Federal Employees on a program that helps returning citizens find jobs. Within the past two years, nearly 100 former inmates who participated in Continuum of Care during their stay at the Rivers Correctional Institute made personal and professional improvements after relocating to the Washington, D.C., area. These efforts have a real impact in giving the formerly incarcerated a second chance at improving their lives. The company’s private facilities in Florida offer GEDs, trade courses, and rehabilitation assistance to help inmate work through addiction issues.

The success of contract prison operations is not just an American phenomenon. Reports from the Land Down Under have highlighted how a privately managed prison facility in Australia has attained significant success. The Ravenhall Correctional Centre located in Victoria has been operating for only around three years but has achieved a commendably low recidivism rate of about 20%. This is no small feat, considering that the recidivism rate is more than twice as high (43%) for other facilities in the Australian state. KUNC contributor Rae Ellen Bichell describes the facility in detail:

The area just beyond security … is full of flowers. Nearby, the sound of drumming emanates from a building … Inmates … appeared to be walking around freely, using their fingerprints to pass through gates separating the residential areas from places where they might talk to a medical provider or take a class.

Overall, a variety of evidence shows that private correctional facilities are not only focused on rehabilitation. As debate intensifies over the Biden administration’s ill-considered approach, TPA hopes the president and his aides will examine the evidence and reach a sensible conclusion about the role of private facilities in criminal justice reform.

Biden promised to make full use of data and evidence when he became president. The facts are clear – private prisons are helping people inside and outside of prison.

David Williams is the president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Will You Help Us In The Fight For Free Speech?

Issues & Insights was founded by seasoned journalists of the IBD Editorials page. Our mission is to provide timely, fact-based reporting and deeply informed analysis on the news of the day -- without fear or favor.

We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe in a free press, and because we aren't afraid to tell the truth, even if it means being targeted by the left. Revenue from ads on the site help, but your support will truly make a difference in keeping our mission going. If you like what you see, feel free to visit our Donations Page by clicking here. And be sure to tell your friends!

You can also subscribe to I&I: It's free!

Just enter your email address below to get started.

Share

Subscribe to Issues & Insights via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to I&I and you can receive notifications of new articles in your email. It’s simple, and free.

Join 5,083 other subscribers

We Could Use Your Help

Will you help us fight for honesty in journalism and against the tyranny of the left? Issues & Insights is published by a team of volunteers who believe in free speech and in quality journalism. If you like what you see, leave a donation by clicking on the Tip Jar above. You can also set up regular donations if you like. Ad revenue helps, but your support will truly make a difference. (Please note that we are not set up as a charitable organization, so donations aren't tax deductible.) Thank you!

About Issues & Insights

Issues & Insights is run by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

%d bloggers like this: