Alex Friedmann, 50, was transferred to a Tennessee public prison in 1998 after having spent the previous six years incarcerated in a private facility. Everything was different: There were more blankets, the toilet paper wasn’t as cheap, and correctional officers were everywhere.
“First thing I noticed was there’s a heck of a lot more staff or boots on the ground in the public prisons,” he told Vox. “There was not such an emphasis on cutting costs.”
After being released in 1999, Friedmann — now the associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center — began fighting for the abolishment of private prisons, and has spent the past two decades doing so. The arguments against them, according to Friedmann, are clear: Their for-profit model encourages the business to cut corners, affecting inmates’ safety and quality of living.
Increasingly, these criticisms of private, for-profit facilities have been reflected in policy and spending. Fueled in part by opposition from their constituents, lawmakers of states like California and Nevada have banned private prisons from operating. Businesses are also increasingly cutting ties with the industry following pushback from their customers.
The number of inmates in these facilities are also seeing a downward trend: In comparison to its peak in 2012 of about 136,220 people, the private prison population has decreased about 12 percent in the past five years as more facilities are closing. Given private prisons rely on facilities being full to remain economically viable, there is concern among executives that these falling numbers could eventually drive these businesses to their demise.
It cannot happen fast enough.
These ghouls are a plague on the entire justice system.