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Private Prisons in the U.S.

A prison provides the basic needs to those convicted of crimes, including shelter, food and clothing. The men and women sentenced to these correctional facilities come from all walks of life and “do time” in order to amend for crimes committed, or as a means of providing security to the public by removing criminals from communities. With the current state of overcrowded prisons across the U.S., many states have turned to private companies that specialize in prisons and correctional facilities to help with this large population of convicted criminals and those awaiting trial or even deportation.

The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, from first-time, non-violent offenders to hardened criminals with high rates of recidivism, or those that pose an immediate threat to the general public. As immigration concerns rise, men and women that are discovered living in the U.S. illegally are often detained in prisons until the deportation process has finished, as well, leading to even higher numbers of inmates in an already overpopulated corrections system. Because of this growing criminal population, state- and federal-run prisons are at capacity and turning to private companies that promise to provide the same level of treatment to prisoners at a lower cost.

Private prisons are not subject to the same guidelines and transparency as public prisons. The corporations that run these correctional facilities develop programs and procedures that are similar in nature to public prisons, but are thought to be geared more toward the least violent offenders. Since private prisons can offer lower wages than state or federal facilities, corrections officers and other staff are often paid less than those working within public prison and corrections facilities. This includes even those correctional officers with a degree in criminal justice and corrections. Private prisons are also subject to more issues with corruption, as evidenced in the case of two judges caught sentencing juveniles into youth detention centers for first-time, non-violent crimes, in exchange for compensation from the company running those facilities.

While solutions to the prison overcrowding problem continue to evade those charged with the rehabilitation of prisoners, alternative solutions to private prisons continue to develop. Measures including home monitoring devices, drug courts, education and job-training programs are finding better outcomes for non-violent offenders. Rather than relying on corporate-run facilities to provide corrections services, many states have begun to seek alternatives to the prison overpopulation problem through proactive means.

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