The U.S. has just five percent of the World’s population; but, twenty-five percent of the prison population. Apparently, America imprisons a greater number of its citizens and, perhaps holds them for longer periods of time. Why is that?
Sentencing guidelines vary from state-to-state. That might explain regional differences; however, it would not explain the national averages, as compared to the rest of the World. Well, there must be something more. Privatization perhaps?
Privatization is where a government contracts with a corporation to provide services that had previously been been provided by the government. As such, these corporations are for-profit enterprises, having a corporate hierarchy and shareholders who are looking for a profit. Much of the decision-making passes from the government to the corporation.
Like any business, corporations that operate prisons generate more revenue when their “client” base increases. So, it is in the interest of such corporations to have a steady or increasing population of inmates. And, it doesn’t matter to the corporate executives whether the prison population is composed of new clients, long-termers or returnees.
Then, the for-profit prison operators do what any business does: they lobby. Lobbying includes rationalizing why having a large prison population is good for the state, or local area. Then, they contribute to the campaign funds of the various legislators and politicians who can keep the prison population large, and growing. Makes sense, huh?
This potentially means that reducing the prison population would no longer be in the best interest of the corporation or the legislators. Under Privatization, what’s best for the government is no longer of concern. What do they care about lives and families ruined. But, first-time and non-violent prisoners are not going to be turned-around by incarceration. Education and some job training, at least, have a chance to turn these lives around. Prison just hardens them, and only bodes well for the prison operators.