Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Indiana Department of Correction---and the alternative is?

   Because much of my practice is focused in the areas of appeal and post-conviction relief, I frequently visit clients in correctional facilities in Indiana.

   One point to get out of the way is that if we had better systems of education and aid to the poor, provided jobs that paid meaningful wages to more people, and gave women of lower income more control over what are their reproductive rights, we probably would not need so many correctional facilities, a/k/a prisons. (I know Leon Dixon and Nicolas Martin will want to jump on that sentence.) If drugs were legal, we would need still fewer.

   Given the circumstances, there are prisons in Indiana. The United States, with five percent (5%) of the World's population has twenty-five percent (25%) of its prison population. This is not the "Land of the Free." 

   There has been a move in recent years to "privatize" prisons. The notion is the one common to privatization efforts. If we turn prisons over to the private sector, the private sector will run prisons more efficiently and taxpayers will be spared part of the burden of payment for society.

   CCA, Corrections Corporation of America, is one of the Big Three of private correctional corporations. CCA runs a facility in New Castle. A copy of CCA's model contract was obtained by the Libertarian Party in the last election cycle. When CCA enters into a contract with a State, CCA likes to require the State will maintain Ninety Percent (90%) occupancy of a facility or the overall facilities of the State, depending upon the contract.

   The purpose of government is not to ensure private corporations occupancy of penal facilities. With politicians purportedly so focused on government savings, a penalty clause in a contract---e.g., miss that Ninety Percent (90%) occupancy and the State pays the private corporation---would cause them to spaz out. The inclination would be for politicians to pass more laws to make more acts illegal, or to pass laws that make penalties more harsh. As to the latter, sentences would be longer and credit time for inmates would be reduced.

   Politicians far more frequently run on "get tough" platforms when the subject is "law and order" (not to be confused with the TV series franchise). It is difficult for a candidate to run on a platform in which she or he vows to protect the procedural rights of those accused of violation of the law. Politicians frequently run on platforms that vow to save the taxpayers money. The privatization creed goes on that line.

   There are certain functions that never should be privatized. These include police protection, fire protection, and penal custody. In some instances, private correctional corporations "employ" inmates at very low wages and manufacture goods to sell in the marketplace. Those corporations compete with other companies that have to pay higher wages to employees who are not (yet) in prison. This is not an example of a "free" marketplace or equal competition.

   The Indiana Department of Correction is a bureaucracy of the State of Indiana.  As such there are legitimate criticisms of ways in which it operates. The correctional officials with whom I have had contact almost universally have been professional in their approach to their jobs. There should not be a movement to privatize our correctional system.  If anything, we should seek to make illegal any attempt to privatize our penal facilities. Of course, CCA has more dollars with which to lobby than would a force that opposes CCA. So that would be a legislative measure with less hope of passage than the proposal that the number for Pi be "3."

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