The Privatization of Prisons. No, you aren't dreaming . . . but this is a nightmare

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No, you aren't dreaming . . . but this is a nightmare

The Privatization of Prisons

by Nora C. Callahan

Various states and even the federal government are are looking into innovative plans to add badly needed prison space by privatizing construction and ownership. Governor Jim Edgar of Illinois in 1995 proclaimed, "Today, I am signing truth-in-sentencing legislation and calling for laws to put sex offenders who brutalize children in prison forever. It would be irresponsible for me to take that action without dealing effectively with the prison overcrowding crisis we have been facing even without those new laws on the books." Of course the governor did not mention that these privately prisons would house more non-violent drug offenders than it would violent criminals. Again, the public is duped.

It has been said that the United States does not have a crime epidemic, it has an epidemic of imprisonment. Violent crime has risen only 3.5 percent but the number of people in prison has doubled in less than a decade. The privatization of prisons is allowing the government to add thousands of prison cells without the sanction of taxpayers who then bear the burden of lease payments. Of course leases with options to buy are in the works. How dandy, another industry rises from the economic ashes of this land . . . another bonus from the War on Drugs.

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