If you’ve been paying any attention to the news, then you know that the rate of violent crime in America is on the decline. In 2012, CNN reported that violent crime in the United States had fallen for the fifth consecutive year. Murders were down 0.7 percent, robberies down 4 percent, aggravated assaults declined 3.9 percent, and forcible r*pes were down 2.5 percent. But you wouldn’t know that crime rates had dropped if you looked at the federal private prison population, which has seen its inmate numbers skyrocket over the past 10 years.
During the ten year period from 1999 to 2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, but the private prison population rose an astronomical 784 percent.
The increase in private prison population is mostly due to increased government contracts and the incentive to house more prisoners. A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison for literally exchanging young people for cash. Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of accepting money in exchange for choosing to incarcerate thousands of young people into the facility of a developer who was paying him under the table.
These private prison companies claim they can save the government money, even though no available data supports that notion. However, data does indicate that these private prison companies restrict prison health care and other necessities in order to pad their own profits.
Private prisons companies such as Correction Corporation of America actually mandates that the government keep jails at 90 percent capacity as part of the contract. So there is an incentive to keep people behind bars and not the other way around.
America has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. As long as there’s money to be made in putting people in a cage, this probably won’t change.