Privatizing prisons

An increasingly popular trend in state governments across the country is to privatize prisons. The New Hampshire legislature just voted to do it in that state with the promise that it would save taxpayers $10 million over the next two years. Most of these private prisons are in the southwest, so I guess an inmate from Nashua might do his time in Nogales. This strategy might not be the cost-saving panacea it’s advertised to be. A recent article in the New York Times disputes the magnitude of the claimed savings and points out that the private prisons are contractually obligated to take only the healthiest prisoners. If one gets sick, he gets shipped back to the sending state for care and government incarceration.

Even if the claims of cost savings are accurate, I don’t think this is a good idea. There are certain fundamental things that government should do itself – police and fire protection or two that come to mind. Incarcerating prisoners is another. That’s our collective responsibility and we should do it within our own jurisdiction in a humane but not extravagant manner. Shipping prisoners to some far-away institution simply to save money seems very 19th century. But that seems to be the target era of much of the political agenda being pushed these days. I used to say there was a movement afoot in this country to roll our social policies back to the age before Roosevelt. At the time, I meant Franklin, now I think before Theodore is more the case.

3 Responses to Privatizing prisons

  1. Jason says:

    It is no joke, there are a few active attempts at privatizing the fire service right now. One was just defeated in San Carlos, California. This has been an ongoing issue for years, along with combining police and fire services, which have absolutely nothing to do with each other operationally. Companies like Wackenhut and Rural Metro regularly make claims about the ability to do it better and cheaper. However these are not industries built on profit. They are a public good. While government should make every attempt to be as efficent and cost effective as the private sector in order to maximize resources, every dime made on these services is blood money that could better be put into additional life saving resources.

    No one in these companies talks about the day they walk away because they can’t make money leaving the municipality hanging.

  2. Dean says:

    I read the article. What it I under stood is that to privatize city, state or federal government does not work.