You think the new Season of Orange is the New Black is …insert any comment here. Don’t worry, no spoilers of the latest season of the hit show here. As a Netflix addict, and ONITB fan, I have already watched every episode of Season 5.
While I find the season to be improbable, and extremely dramatized for my viewing enjoyment, it points to a very good message that I think we should all pay attention to…the privatization of prisons.
What is privatization of prisons? Simply put, the transfer of ownership from a government operated entity to a privately operated one or even more simply, private ownership of prisons.
As the show entails in previous seasons, the ownership and management of the fictitious Litchfield prison was transferred to a private company who was more worried about the bottom line, rather than “corrections”.
While the dramatized television show mentions things such as loss of GED and education programs and the disguise of low budget employment, the reality is, all across America, our prisons are doing the exact same thing. One by one we are handing over prisons for a profit.
The Huffington Post ran an article back in 2012 quoting that crime was on the decline across the nation, yet incarceration had tripled since the 80’s. A decrease in crime but an increase in prisoners? It can’t be connected with the fact investors can now own stock in privately owned prisons, right?
A report from the public interest group in 2012, 5 years ago, showed that most prisons across the country have an occupancy rate. OCCUPANCY RATE? You mean QUOTA? Surprisingly many of these occupancy rates are 90-100%.
So wait, you are saying that prisons WANT to be 90-100% full? Yep, that’s exactly what I am saying. The same report lacked some important contract clauses, such as, plans for rehabilitation, educational programs, or plans for crime reduction.
The term CORRECTIONS has been used forever to describe incarceration facilities. Just last semester I was tasked with designing my own prison. My very tough teacher had no modifications to my prison, and even declared it “one of the best I’ve ever seen”. What made my prison so different? It simply focused on REHABILITATION and CORRECTIONS of inmates. It gave them opportunities to succeed, excel and break away from the behavior that placed them there to begin with.
I don’t know if you have had a chance to watch 60 days in on A&E, but it is based on the idea of real security camera’s inside a jail cell in a Clark County facility. While I have no opinion on the amount of drama inflicted by producers, the point of the show is to show you a glimpse. I saw their perception of a glimpse. While the sheriff was interested in making his prison safer, and protecting inmates, keeping out drugs, and broadcasting the drama, there was little to no mention of how they “corrected” INMATES. No one ever left that cell, they were just all there to devise their own little government.
Some were ring leaders, some just stayed out of the noise, but the focus was clearly on the facility and operations, not on the inmates.
One “participant” in the program even toddled on the edge of crime. He began trading commissary, making friends with the other inmates, and becoming for lack of a better phrase, a real inmate. He didn’t “snitch” out his other “friends”. He totally lost sight of his purpose in the program.
How many other inmates across America, “lose sight” while incarcerated?
The goal of incarceration is to keep the streets of America clean and safe, I guess. I mean, that’s what we are told. What about teaching these inmates there is life beyond crime? How about giving them the tools and education they need to be a part of our society? Can every inmate be saved? No, but I am betting a lot more can than can’t.
I don’t know about your town, but in my small town, people go into the county corrections facility, and then come out smarter and better at crime than before. Many return within a year or two. Few become active members of the community, and while it does happen, it is rare. Also worth mentioning, here right outside the “heroin capital of the United States” it’s fairly easy to get drugs in prison, and with physical money being invaluable, trades, barters and swaps become resources of item acquirement.
Privatization of prisons allows us to navigate from correctional facility to for profit company with a clientele of only those society can’t manage. We aren’t exactly going to lay out the red carpet upon their arrival. I get it. Do I think jail should be easy on the inmate? No, I do not. Do I think jail should have opportunities for those who can do better? Yes, I do. Do I think we should put the CORRECTIONS part back into the department of corrections? Again, yes I do.
If we live in a society where a criminal breaks the law, goes to jail, does their easy time, comes out and does not worry or fear jail, probably has a few friends there, learned a few tricks and shortly returns, then the private prisons win. Inmates return, quota’s are met, money is made, and everyone’s happy. Well, everyone that “matters”, you mean.
My prison focused on mental health rehabilitation, drug rehabilitation, job skills, rewards for good behavior, incentives and the opportunity and means to return as a functioning member of society. There was no time or opportunity to make new friends, or sit around and watch TV and tattoo each other, or smoke whatever chemical made in the toilet. In my jail, you didn’t need a trade for commissary, you needed the will to earn it and the better you did, the more you got. Life skills, not street ones. You weren’t there to make friends and sit around, you were there to get out and not come back.
That is still the goal, right?
Photo courtesy of Jackson Free Press.