BY: John “Hennry” Harris
A compelling infographic compiled by topcriminaljusticedegrees.org shows just how private prison populations have skyrocketed over the years and sheds light on not only the racial disparity of Blacks housed in the prison complexes, but the staggering rise of immigration detention as well.
In 1984, the U.S. began experimenting with private prisons in an effort for states to save money. Arguably, saving money is not always the case and many point to the private prison system as one that is full of corruption. A fact that can not go unnoticed is the surge in private prison population: between 1990-2009 the private inmate population grew by more than 1,600%, netting major profits while creating a perverse incentive for mass incarceration.
Take a look inside the numbers below:
Currently there are 1,598,780 state and federal prisoners and 128,195 state and federal prisoners housed in private facilities.
There has been a 37% increase in the private prison population between 2002 and 2009, leading to a financial windfall for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, Inc., the two largest private prison corporations. The combined revenue of CCA and The GEO Group in 2011 was a whopping $3.4 billion, with CCA earning $1.74 billion and GEO adding $1.6 billion in profits. That is more than the GDP of Greenland and the U.S. Virgin Islands combined.
CCA controls 66 facilities that hold 90,000 beds throughout the country and The GEO Group has 56 facilities housing 61,000 beds. Both corporations have faced allegations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at some of their facilities made evident by $6.5 million in damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit against GEO Group in the beating death of an inmate by his cellmate and a $1.1 million fine against GEO Group for inadequate staffing by the New Mexico Department of Corrections.
Minorities also appear to be over-represented in private prisons even more than government-run facilities. For example in California, 75% of publicly run facilities are inmates of color compared to 89% inmates of color at private prison institutions. In Texas, 66% of public facilities house inmates are of color as opposed to 71% inmates of color in private institutions.
As troubling as the percentages of inmates of color are, there is a growing trend of immigration detainees being held in private prisons. Immigration detainees number about 400,000 a year with 50% of them being held in private prisons, up from 25% in 2003. Since 1994, immigration detention has seen a boon of 457%, shedding light on the unnoticed plight of immigrants in America.
The privatization of prisons has proven to make staggering profits for a business whose objective is to house prisoners/people. If people can see the dangers in fast-food restaurants, pushing grease-laden foods for profit, it is amazing that the conflict of interests are not visible for a business that becomes more profitable locking people up.