The use of private prisons in the United States is a contentious and controversial issue. Although private prisons detain less than ten percent of all prisoners, their role in America's justice system is decried by all the Democratic presidential candidates. President Barack Obama wanted to close all of the private prisons, so the Democratic party is united on this issue. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has been an enthusiastic supporter of private prisons. In fact, private prisons have had many negative effects.
First, they have an incentive to imprison people. For-profit prisons are probably more likely to be filled than public ones. Too many empty cells are bad for the bottom line.
Second, they are being used to house thousands of immigrants. Are these immigrants really a threat to the US, or are they a source of profit to the private-prison industry? One company is making $750 per day for each immigrant child.
Third, private prisons have no reason to rehabilitate offenders. They would rather have "repeat customers." Unlike public facilities, private jails do not have an incentive to prepare inmates for a productive life on the outside.
Fourth, private prisons employ too few staff. Also, their guards are not well trained. Employee turnover is high.
Fifth, they can serve as a source of political corruption. They donate to politicians in exchange for what—more inmates?
Next, private prisons, like private schools, do not serve the public's interests. Incarceration and education should remain in the public sector.
Filthy food is often served in private prisons. Inmates should have as much of a right to nutritious food as schoolchildren. (Sadly, many American schoolchildren do not get a nutritious lunch.)
Private prisons are one aspect of a dysfunctional detention system. Incarceration rates are too high in the US.
Ninth, private prisons damage America's international standing. Very few advanced countries allow private prisons to operate.
Finally, private prisons are more dangerous than their public-sector counterparts.