Will California Ban Private Prisons?



Breana Knighten, A&E Editor

Since its origins in 1984, the private prison system has been widely known as corrupt, and it seems that the lawmakers in the California state assembly are starting to realize this. Last week, lawmakers in California passed a bill that would ban private prisons and certain ICE detention camps, effective in 2020. So far, the chances of this bill becoming law seem to be likely, seeing as it was passed by the Senate with an overwhelmingly positive 65-11 vote in favor. 

Although this bill was drawn up fairly recently, the private prison system has acted as a dystopian nightmare manifestation of capitalism since its beginnings. Private prisons were first introduced as a cheaper way for the country to deal with the overwhelming amount of incarcerated citizens during the war on drugs and when many mental hospitals were being shut down, it caused prisons to be overrun with non-violent offenders. But by the time it was shown that private prisons cost the American taxpayers just as much, businesses such as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) were profiting tremendously off of the prison system and were not willing to abandon it.

This may seem acceptable until you consider the fact that private prisons profit off of the men and women stuck in the prison system, and thus have no incentive to reform. 40% of freed offenders are back behind bars within three years according to rand.org. The most effective method to reform has been proven, time and time again, to be educated, but because private prisons benefit from inmates, there are very rarely any educational programs with any value offered. Further, the ones that do exist can have waiting lists with thousands of people.  This solidifies the fact that the goal of businesses such as the CCA was never to rehabilitate or even to punish prisoners, but to profit off a vulnerable population and the American taxpayers. 

After passing the bill that could potentially ban these third-party prisons, one would think that the logical next step would be turning this bill into law. It only needs to be signed by California’s governor Newsom, who has previously spoken out against private prisons. However, despite the overwhelming support from both the Senate as well as Newsom, this bill still may not be effective.

One of the downsides of living in a capitalistic society is that it is very difficult to abolish such a wealthy company that works so closely with our government, despite the blatantly obvious corruption. Millions of dollars a year are spent on lobbyists and nearly 4,000 companies profit off of private prisons. However, when President Trump took office, the situation became much worse. Big businesses set up a similar practice to private prisons, but rather than focusing on the prison system they took advantage of ICE facilities. According to medium.com, “73% of detained immigrants are held in private prison facilities.” Because of these new developments, we must act now against these corporations that will continue to rob vulnerable members of society, which are unfortunately pushed to the side. In the case of Americans detained, out of sight should not mean out of mind.