Skip navigation

PLN responds to editorial lauding for-profit prisons

Daily Collegian, June 19, 2018.

Letter to the Editor: With high levels of violence, profit from incarceration, there's more we need to know about private prisons

Last month The Daily Collegian published an opinion piece by Andrew Rubin that extolled the virtues of private prisons — i.e., detention facilities operated by private companies for the purpose of generating corporate profit.

While Mr. Rubin is entitled to his opinions, as expressed in his article that was essentially propaganda for firms like CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corp. of America) and GEO Group, he is not entitled to his own facts.

Three decades of research on the for-profit prison industry has consistently shown that private prisons have higher levels of violence.

In August 2016, an OIG report on private federal prisons found they “had more frequent incidents per capita of contraband finds, assaults, uses of force, lockdowns, guilty findings on inmate discipline charges, and selected categories of grievances.”

Additionally, research has determined that prisoners released from private prisons are more likely to reoffend, including a 2013 Minnesota study and a 2008 study in Oklahoma.

Plus there is no evidence that private prisons save money, and there are pesky issues like “bed guarantees” in private prison contracts and corruption due to their profit motive.

It is for these reasons – among others, including the comparison of private prisons to modern-day slavery – that some colleges have divested from for-profit prison companies – including ColumbiaYale and the University of California.

Mr. Rubin did cite one study — a 2009 report by the Reason Foundation. But he failed to disclose that Reason receives funding from private prison firms; the same year that report came out, GEO was a Platinum-level Reason supporter and CCA was a Gold-level supporter.

In conclusion, while Mr. Rubin is an ardent apologist for companies that profit from incarceration, he lacks factual basis for his position and his article is — in my opinion — a disservice to The Daily Collegian’s readers.

Alex Friedmann serves as associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center and managing editor of Prison Legal News. He is a former prisoner who spent 10 years behind bars, including six years at a private prison, prior to his release in 1999. He is a national expert on the private prison industry.