Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration

This World Map Shows The Enormity Of America’s Prison Problem000001secondchancebutton-smaller_0

About 2.4 million people live behind bars in America — the highest number in the world. That’s a little more than .7% of the population and more than 700 for every 100,000 people. This world map illustrates how disconcerting that is:

The size of each country corresponds to the size of its total prison population (as of 2010), and a darker color indicates a higher incarceration rate. The area of the U.S. is bigger than China, a country that dwarfs the U.S. general population by more than four. Also note how tiny Canada looks next to the U.S.

How evidence-based strategies can spur successful correctional reform

“When it comes to correctional reform, the federal government could learn a thing or two from the states, according to Nancy La Vigne, director of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center.”

“At yesterday’s convening of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation, La Vigne outlined successful, evidence-based strategies adopted by the 17 states involved in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), and how these lessons could apply at the federal level.” Read the entire article at:

Prioritizing Assistance after Jail

Inmates with serious mental illnesses are much more likely to seek assistance with housing and financial needs when released from jail than treatment, according to a recent study in the journal Qualitative Health Research. The study examined how people with serious mental illness prioritize their needs when released from jail. Unlike prison releases, those in jail are often giving little warning or time to plan before rejoining communities, the study notes. The study is available for sale at:

Study: Half of Young Black Men Are Cuffed at Least Once

Nearly half of all black men in the United States are arrested at least once before the age of 23, according to a new University of South Carolina study. Researchers examined the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which tracks the lives of 9,000 people who were between the ages of 12 and 17 in 1997. An analysis of arrest histories for respondents between the ages of 18 and 23 revealed that almost exactly half (49 percent) of all black men are arrested by age 23. About 30 percent of black men reported at least one arrest by age 18, according to the study. Obtain the PDF file report at:

Trapped in the Hole: America’s Solitary Problem

“After seven months in isolation at Cresson state penitentiary in Pennsylvania, an inmate identified as “EE” began to deteriorate. He banged his head against his cell, smeared feces on the walls, and ripped the bandage off of a wound, digging in his fingers until it bled. EE had been diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder and an intellectual disability. He’s spent seven of the last 12 years in isolation in various Pennsylvania institutions. At Cresson, during 15 consecutive months in isolation, he would threaten or attempt to harm or kill himself at least 15 times. “Isolation,” he would later tell Justice Department officials, “makes me want to rip my face off.” “

Quote from “Trapped in the Hole: America’s Solitary Problem”, as essay on PBS.ORG

“A Boom Behind Bars,” Bloomberg Businessweek, 03-17-2011

“Selvin Cardenas’s three months in the U.S. immigrant detention system began in the usual way, with a knock at his door. At 5 a.m. on Apr. 21, 2009, three men in suits spotted him through the window of his Houston home. “We’re here for you,” one of them said. “You’re Selvin Cardenas. Open up the door.”

“Gaming the System,” (.pdf) Justice Policy Institute, 06-01-2011

“At a time when many policymakers are looking at criminal and juvenile justice reforms that would safely shrink the size of our prison population, the existence of private prison companies creates a countervailing interest in preserving the current approach to criminal justice and increasing the use of incarceration.””

“1 in 3 Black Men Go To Prison? The 10 Most Disturbing Facts About Racial Inequality in the U.S. Criminal Justice System,” AlterNet, 03-17-2012

“Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color—disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”

“Private Prison Profits Skyrocket as Executives Assure Investors of Growing Offender Population,” ThinkProgress, 05-09-2013

“A major U.S. private prison operator known for inmate abuse, violations, and disregard for the truth reported a 56-percent spike in profit in the first quarter of 2013, due in part to its new strategy for drastically reducing its taxes, the Associated Press reports. During a conference call touting its success, representatives at GEO Group boasted that the company continues to have “solid occupancy rates in mid to high 90s” and that they are optimistic “regarding the outlook for the industry,” in part due to a “growing offender population.”

“Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,” (.pdf) ACLU, 11-01-2011

“The imprisonment of human beings at record levels is both a moral failure and an economic
one—especially at a time when more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet
and when state governments confront enormous fiscal crises. This report finds, however, that
mass incarceration provides a gigantic windfall for one special interest group—the private
prison industry—even as current incarceration levels harm the country as a whole.”

“The Legacy of Chattel Slavery: Private Prisons Blur the Line Between Real People and Real Estate With New IRS Property Gambit,” Truthout, 02-04-2013

“Although many criminal justice activists are quick to denounce the most egregious race-based expressions of prison privatization, ranging from involuntary prison labor to racially disparate sentencing policies, few, if any, have attended to the deeply racialized, yet somewhat arcane, relationship developing between the private prison industry and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Curiously, one of the best ways to understand exactly how the private prison industry views itself and its fundamental mission is to analyze changes in the IRS corporate filing status of private prison companies. ”

“The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About 30 Years of Corrections Corporation of America,” (.pdf) Grassroots Leadership, 06-01-2013

“Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s oldest and largest for-profit private prison corporation, is commemorating its 30th anniversary throughout 2013 with a series of birthday celebrations at its facilities around the country. Over the last 30 years, CCA has benefited from the dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States. Since the company’s founding in 1983, the incarcerated population has risen by more than 500 percent to more than 2.2 million people. Meanwhile, the number of people held in immigration detention centers has exploded from an average daily population of 131 people to over 32,000 people on any given day. ”

“ACLU Lawsuit Charges Idaho Prison Officials Promote Rampant Violence,” ACLU, 03-11-2010

“BOISE, ID – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho today filed a class action federal lawsuit charging that officials at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) promote and facilitate a culture of rampant violence that has led to carnage and suffering among prisoners at the state-owned facility operated by the for-profit company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, the lawsuit charges that epidemic violence at the facility is the direct result of, among other things, ICC officials turning a blind eye to the brutality, a prison culture that relies on the degradation, humiliation and subjugation of prisoners, a failure to discipline guards who intentionally arrange assaults and a reliance on violence as a management tool.”

“Too Good to be True: Private Prisons in America,” (.pdf) 01-01-2012

“In 2010, private prisons held 128,195 of the 1.6 million state and federal prisoners in the United States, representing eight percent of the total population. For the period 1999-2010, the number of individuals held in private prisons grew by 80 percent, compared to 18 percent for the overall prison population. While both federal and state governments increasingly relied on privatization, the federal prison system’s commitment to privatization grew much more dramatically. The number of federal prisoners held in private prisons rose from 3,828 to 33,830, an increase of 784 percent, while the number of state prisoners incarcerated privately grew by 40 percent, from 67,380 to 94,365. Today, 30 states maintain some level of privatization, with seven states housing more than a quarter of their prison populations privately.”

“The Color of Corporate Corrections: Overrepresentation of People of Color in the Private Prison Industry,” Prison Legal News, 08-30-2013

“Our research indicates that although people of color are already overrepresented in public prisons relative to their share of state and national populations, they are further overrepresented by approximately 12 percent in state-contracted correctional facilities operated by for-profit private prison firms. Not only is the over-representation of people of color in private prisons a matter of public concern, it also begs some previously unconsidered questions.”

“Three States Dump Major Private Prison Company in One Month” ThinkProgress, 06-21-2013

“State lawmakers who embraced private prisons as a cost-cutting measure are starting to have trouble ignoring their abysmal conditions. Corrections Corporation of America, the largest and most powerful private prison company in the nation, lost four prison contracts in the past month after extensive reports of abuse, neglect, and even fraud within their operations.”

“New Hampshire Rejects All Private Prison Bids,” ThinkProgress, 04-05-2013

“New Hampshire officials rejected all four bids to privatize its prisons, citing prison operators’ insufficient understanding of court-mandated standards of inmate care, and proposed wages that are half what prison security staff now earn. The decision comes following a recent vote by the state House of Representatives to prohibit private prisons in the state. For-profit prison operators’ interest in profiting off inmates leads to perverse incentives, and many private facilities have been cited for human rights abuses and violations of state law.”

“Gov. Brown’s misguided private prison plan” SF Gate, 08-28-2013

“For the last two years, Brown has fought tooth and nail to avoid implementing the Supreme Court’s 2011 order requiring California to reduce its still overcrowded prison population. Tuesday, he made his most shocking step yet by proposing to send inmates to for-profit prisons. This boondoggle will cost an additional $315 million and more than $1 billion over three years to house thousands of people in private prisons leased by the state. Even our most extreme, fear-mongering politicians of decades past would have been reluctant to put forward such a scheme.Brown appears hell bent on being on the wrong side of history. Across the political spectrum, leaders are beginning to understand that we need to invest in rehabilitation, re-entry programs, and evidence-based alternatives, rather than continuing our failed policies of mass incarceration.”