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What are ten reasons prisons should not be private?

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The existence of private prisons in the United States has certainly been controversial. Here are some common arguments against them.

1. Philosophically speaking, it can be argued that it is the state's responsibility to take care of those who have been tried and sentenced in the state's courts for committing crimes against the state. Passing on the responsibility to private entities is shirking this obligation.

2. A large part of the rationale for having private prisons is to save money for the state. However, studies have shown that the cost savings are negligible.

3. The staff at private prisons are usually paid less and receive fewer benefits than the staff of state-run prisons. This has been shown to lead to poor morale and staff-cuts and often exacerbates issues that already exist in the prison.

4. Many argue that the privatization of prisons has a negative impact on the inmates since private prisons are motivated by the bottom-line. Therefore, cost-cutting measures often mean fewer services and less safety for prisoners as well as staff.

5. Private prisons do not encourage rehabilitation. Since the business model of private prisons is to have more prisoners in their facilities, it has been suggested that they function more like warehouses for inmates than centers of rehabilitation.

6. It influences politics. Politicians are frequently lobbied by private prison organizations to pass laws requiring more jail time and to oppose laws that would result in non-carceral consequences and solutions to crime. By lobbying for severe jail time for offenders, private prison corporations are putting profit ahead of justice.

7. Private prisons have no direct government oversight. Although they are still subject to state inspections and report to state authorities, they operate separately from the public bureaucracy. This means that there are not necessarily safety measures in place to help ensure that proper services are being delivered.

8. Because of prisoner exchange programs in the private prison network, prisoners may find themselves incarcerated very far from their homes and communities. This means that they have less access to community support, an essential part of rehabilitation and transition after completing their sentence.

9. Private prisons have a large degree of choice in who they house. They often do not take the most difficult, violent, and therefore more expensive criminals. This leaves the state with the burden of supervising and housing the highest-risk offenders.

10. Private prisons can even lead to more corruption. There have been cases in which prison corporations have illegally influenced politicians and judges to ensure that they receive more prisoners. For instance, in 2009 it came to light that two Pennsylvania judges were accepting bribes in return for sentencing more children to private juvenile detention centers for comparatively light offenses. This and other such cases show us that anytime that money is involved in public affairs, the potential for corruption exists.

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