Private prison corporations say they don't lobby on custodial policy. They seem to find legislators with views aligned anyway
Early in August, the Associated Press reported that America's three largest private prison companies, the Corrections Corporation of America
(CCA), GEO Group, Inc and Management and Training Corp spent in the
region of $45m over the past 10 years in lobbying state and federal
governments. During the same period, these companies saw their profits
soar as they scored more government contracts.
During the same
period, various pieces of legislation got passed ensuring that immigrant
detention, in particular, would remain a lucrative growth market. The
companies get defensive, however, if anyone attempts to draw a
connection between their lobbying efforts and their booming businesses.
But whatever the purpose of the lobbying, the very fact that these
companies, which perform a public service using taxpayer funds, are
first and foremost profit-making entities highlights the flawed
incentivisation of the private prison model and its growing presence in
the American criminal justice system.
I'll get to the lobbying in a
moment, but first let's have a look at that flawed incentive. Thanks to
mandatory sentencing laws and the "war on drugs", the prison population
has exploded over the past 30 years – to the point where it has become
an untenable burden on state budgets. As a result, many state lawmakers
have begun to look at ways to reduce their prison populations. This is
good for society, as needlessly locking people up for excessive periods
for nonviolent crimes has proven to be counter-productive and
cost-prohibitive – not to mention inhumane.