Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Privatization is serious issue

The Idaho Mountain Express has precisely gone to the heart of the problems with for-profit prisons. It's that profit is at the basis of all decision making. Doing a bad job increases those profits in the absence of effective oversight. The Idaho Department of Corrections has long been on notice that this situation has been out of control, but it appears to have hoped by virtue of the physical distance they wouldn't be noticed. This represents a complete failure of will and responsibility.

This is hardly a single-state failure. I've examined monitoring and oversight all around the country, including Idaho and Texas. Even in the few states where there has been a genuine attempt to assure the efficacy of services, billion-dollar corporations such as GEO and its competitor CCA have frustrated the efforts of those attempting to represent the interests of taxpayers and insure humane conditions. No state is very good at performing this function. Most are simply terrible.

The politicians who have been entrusted with the interest of the public have been easily and thoroughly distracted by floods of campaign contributions, ideological dogmatism represented by the mantra "private is better," and in some provable instances, outright bribes.

Worst of all, the for-profits have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, increasing the numbers of prisoners by helping craft ever more draconian legislation, pushing for "more market and more market share."

Only public outcry can staunch this flow of corruption. Only the press can guide citizens to action.

Frank Smith

Private Corrections Institute

Bluff City, Kans.

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