After decades of tough criminal justice policies, states have been struggling with crowded prisons that are exceeding budgets. In response to those pressures, New Jersey has become the leader in a national effort to save money by redirecting inmates to privately run halfway houses instead of prisons.
However, this new idea meant to save the state money provides little oversight and the halfway houses have transformed into a place for more crime to flourish, where drugs, gang activity and violence, including sexual assaults, often go unnoticed and unchecked.
According to the New York Times, roughly 5,100 inmates have escaped from the state’s privately run halfway houses since 2005.
Once again, some are worried that states are putting privatization and profits over public safety.
The Huffington Post reported that private prisons also profit from immigration crackdowns and racial profiling is common in places like Arizona. Nearly half of immigrant detainees are now held in private prisons.
While Arizona’s immigration policy is widely believed to be stricter than other states, the private prison industry has exploited the crackdown as something else: a lucrative business model.
Private prison executives have recognized a lucrative new market in illegal immigration and have stepped-up enforcement on the borders. Their companies have situated themselves to secure federal contracts to hold those immigrants in their own for-profit facilities.
The Geo Group, Inc., the nation’s second-largest private detention company, earned $1.6 billion in total revenue in year 2011, according to its annual report.
- 37: Percent by which number of prisoners in private facilities increased between 2002 and 2009
- 217,690: Total federal inmate population as of May 2012, according to the Bureau of Prisons
- 27,970: Number of federal inmates in privately managed facilities within the Bureau of Prisons