Gavin R. Putland,  BE PhD

Sunday, August 21, 2016 (Comment)

Private prisons lead to tyranny

When prisons are privatized, the operators stand to maximize their profits through

(1) the highest possible incidence of crime,

(2) the widest possible definition of crime,

(3) the lowest possible standard of proof for obtaining convictions, assisted by the highest possible incidence of, and the weakest possible safeguards against, prosecutorial malpractice, and

(4) the longest possible sentences for persons so convicted of crimes so defined.

Of course, even if the government runs the prisons, the employees of the prison system stand to gain in job security from a higher prison population. But the employer — the government — has an incentive to minimize the prison population in order to minimize the cost to taxpayers. In contrast, when prisons are privatized, not only the employees but also the employers stand to gain from a higher prison population, and the employers will reinvest some of their taxpayer-funded profits in lobbying and campaigning in order to grow at taxpayers' expense. In this case, the threat to the taxpayers is not only to their wealth, but also to their freedom and their good names.

[Edited version of a letter first published in Crikey, 15 August 2012. Last modified 21 August 2016.]

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