What are the Key Problems of Private or For-Profit State Prisons?

Captain Alexis Fecteau Prison

A lot of people might not know this, but there are a lot of state prisons that are run by private business owners instead of the government.  The government pays these businesses to house, feed, and rehabilitate inmates instead of the government doing all the work.  The decision to do so is understandable as the problem of inmate overpopulation rises.  However, as Captain Alexis Fecteau notes, some privatized prisons are to blame for helping create the problem in the first place.

The main focus of a correctional facility isn’t simply to house inmates until their time of release.  Their main objective should be rehabilitating inmates so that when they get out, they would be able to find jobs and stay away from repeating offenses.  And this would pose a problem for private prisons.  For private prisons, there is an incentive for not rehabilitating inmates properly.  If the inmate bounces back to a life of crime, it would better suit their needs as a business, states Captain Alexis Fecteau.  This is why some privatized state prisons have business models that rely on inmates going back to prison upon release.

A prison’s purpose is to protect the public from criminals, rehabilitating inmates, and punishing them for the crimes they committed.  Private prisons claim that they can do these three points better when clearly, they don’t have any incentive to do so.  In fact, given that they are being run as a business, they tend to perform worse than government-run state prisons.

Private prisons can freely cut back on key spending to increase their profit margin.  They can make cuts from medical supplies, security staff, even the food that inmates eat can be affected, adds Captain Alexis Fecteau.  This has led to subhuman conditions in some state prisons.  For example, some private prisons chose to turn off the heating systems in the inmates’ quarters, practically leaving them inside freezing cells.

While some prisons in developed European countries are shutting down because of low inmate numbers, the land of the free is suffering from having the highest inmate population on the planet.  And while private companies such as the GEO Group and CoreCivic have offered their services to the government to help house and rehabilitate inmates, their impact is yet to be felt.  Include the fact that the government now insists on mandatory minimums and its crackdown on illegal immigrants, this problem will only get worse.  According to Captain Alexis Fecteau, until the government finds a better way of rehabilitating inmates and eliminate its reliance on private prisons, this problem will continue to plague the country.

The Numbers Behind Imprisoned Youth in the US

Captain Alexis Fecteau Denver Court

While America is often called Land of the Free, it is also the country that has the highest incarcerated population in the world.  Multiple factors contribute to this fact. For example, many people from poverty-stricken backgrounds often go to jail because they lack resources to post bail or fight their case.  Instead, they get stuck in jail until the court takes action.  According to Captain Alexis Fecteau, there is also the problem of rehabilitation not really working in some prisons.  Improper rehabilitation could result in released inmates ending up back inside.

One primary reason why America is suffering from having too many people behind bars stems from juvenile sentencing.  As of 2016, over 12,000 people were serving a life sentence that was given to underaged offenders.  The number consists of youth who are serving life without parole, life with parole, and those who are incarcerated for 50 years or more.  This means that a youth who has committed a grave crime who hasn’t fully developed mentally is tried as an adult and given adult sentencing.

Captain Alexis Fecteau states that a further look into imprisoned youth in the U.S. tells, or rather, supports the idea that there is a great disparity when it comes to race and ethnicity.  The criminal justice system has always been marred with problems when it comes to the arrest and charging of criminals, mainly blacks and non-white criminals.  The justice system in charge of sentencing criminal youth faces the same problem.  Over 80% of youth who are serving life sentences are of color, 50% of which are of African American descent.  This is extremely apparent in states such as California, New York, and Texas, notes Captain Alexis Fecteau.

Thankfully, some states are carrying out reforms that grant parole boards the authority to consider the age of the felon at the time when they committed their crime as a factor when assessing their readiness for release.  Unfortunately, most states aren’t required to do so during parole hearings.  So far, California and Missouri are the two exceptions.

In California, parole boards are required to give great weight to a juvenile’s age when defining culpability compared to adults who are being tried for crimes. The parole board must also take into consideration subsequent growth and development of these jailed juveniles as they mature inside the penitentiary system.  According to Captain Alexis Fecteau, if more states were to make such reforms, perhaps the problem of overpopulated state prisons would be eased.