The Secret Evils Of Private Prisons
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Politics and Activism

The Secret Evils Of Private Prisons

A broken system that destroys lives for profit.

The Secret Evils Of Private Prisons

My mother always told me, “You stay out of trouble, and just don’t get involved.” That was her advice on avoiding arrest as a Latino, being fully aware that although we lived in one of the most diverse states in the world, New York and New Jersey, the likelihood of a Latino getting arrested compared to whites was significantly higher. The best course of action was to do nothing and avoid the situation all together. Unfortunately, our country has a system designed to incarcerate people, no matter how minor the deed may be. It’s called the private prison system, and it wants its cells full.

First, it is necessary to understand the difference between public and private prisons. Simply put, public prisons are actually owned by our government and no one makes a profit; the end goal is to put away criminals whose actions deserve a sentence and provide the tools necessary for the rehabilitation of these people. Private prisons are contracted by the government as a way of getting some of the workload off their back. Private prisons are not owned by the government, but by a corporation. Like any other corporation, they provide their services with intent to make as much profit as possible. They do so by charging more money for each prisoner compared to what it costs for a prisoner to reside in a public prison, and many private prisons will actually charge the government for any cells that are left empty in their prison.

This has several significant drawbacks. First is that since these corporations want money, they promote the incarceration of people who have minor, and normally not prison worthy, crimes. For example, possession of marijuana should not be a serious felony, and it should not be a crime in the first place considering its medical uses and the profit a state could make from legalizing the drug. It is safe, causes little to no harm, and we have worse substances such as alcohol available that are legal. One of the reasons marijuana is still illegal is because it is widely used and easy to arrest for. Someone holding a small bag of marijuana can be sent to prison and their entire lives will crumble even though they harmed no one, not even themselves. This is an easy method of filling private prisons, even if it’s not for the same period of time a murderer would be sentenced for. The net result is that a nonviolent crime, for an unusually safe and practical drug, results in the imprisonment of countless individuals and destroys their life so the corporation can make a dollar off of them.

Let’s be clear though, these are not just any people being imprisoned. They are predominately black and Latino youths, that although may perform the same action or crime as a white individual are several times more likely to be arrested. Possession of marijuana is an excellent example. There are countless studies showing that whites and blacks tend to smoke and possess the same amount of marijuana. However, a black youth is more than 8 times more likely to be arrested and potentially imprisoned that their white counterparts. Again, this is all for a nonviolent crime that has no grounds for arrest in a logical state or nation. The cycle is such that private prisons want to have people in their cells or the government wants people in their cells so they can pay these corporations less. In doing so they arrest, imprison and destroy the lives of countless people, many even entirely innocent for the sake of profit. However, the entire process has a layer of racism embedded in it. It promotes racism by encouraging imprisonment in a nation where racism has been hiding in the shadows and showing its true colors most recently.

Now let’s suppose none of the aforementioned information is applicable or worrisome to you. Why should you care about the abolishment of the private prison system? Well, believe it or not, it costs you and your neighbors’ money. How does the government pay for someone else to do their jobs? They use taxes of course. While it would make sense to pay taxes for public prisons and pay for what is needed, private prisons charge more per prisoner and sometimes empty cells. The net result is using more of your tax money on something that is not only unnecessary but also promotes mass incarceration.

Besides helping the government place individuals who performed crimes worthy of imprisonment, private prisons provide little to no good. Business that involves using people lives as pawns in a game is no business at all; I’d argue that promoting imprisonment of innocents or those with minor charges is a crime unto itself, but that is something that is rarely discussed openly. Private prisons are our common enemy. It may not affect many of us directly, but it affects our communities tremendously, particularly in those that are marginalized. Their methods of earning our tax dollars is baffling at best, and their promotion and active use of systemic racism continues to harm and divide us beneath the shadows of the law and their own prison cells. The opportunity to abolish this system does not seem to be approaching any time soon considering president-elect Donald Trump will soon be in office that promotes the abuse of the lower class and marginalized for the sake of the wealthy, and President Obama avoided the issue entirely. Moving forward it is our responsibility to recognize this disastrous system is in place, we are vocal about the issue, and when the opportunity arises and the efforts are put forth, we make sure to relinquish it once and for all.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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