Nebraska Lawmaker Wants to Put an End to the State Paying Private Prisons for Empty Cells

private-prisonsThe private prison system is quite possibly one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard of.  Who in their right mind actually believes that prisons should be “for-profit”?

Just think about that for a moment.

How would a prison generate profits?  Well, they could understaff the prison.  Doesn’t that idea just make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Hundreds of potentially violent prisoners locked up inside of a prison that’s drastically understaffed.  Not only is that unsafe for society as a whole, but it’s even more dangerous for those who would still work inside the facility.  You don’t think some of these prisoners with ideas of escape or causing trouble might not recognize a prison with too few guards?

Or they can just do their best to keep their prisons full.  They can’t make people commit crimes, but don’t think for a second that these private corporations running these prisons can’t do their best to influence some judges into dishing out harsher punishments for lesser crimes.

Another way some have gone about helping fatten their profit margins is by having contracts with “lockup quotas.”  What that means is that if these private prisons aren’t filled or near capacity, then taxpayers pay for the empty beds.

Let me say that in another way.  These private prisons have contracts that dictate to whatever state they’re in that no matter how full their prison is, they’re going to get paid regardless.

Basically even if they don’t have an inmate in a cell, they’re being paid as if there were one.

Well, that’ll soon be done away with if Nebraska Democratic state senator Amanda McGill gets her way.  She’s proposing a bill that would make contracts such as these illegal.

My question is, how can anyone actually argue that this shouldn’t be illegal by default?  How can a company sign a contract that essentially says whether or not they provide the services for which they’re contractually obligated to provide, they’re going to be paid regardless?

Especially as it relates to the prison system.  Our goal as a society should be to have emptier prisons.

I know I’m not the only one who sees how bad of a policy this is.  If states are signing contracts with companies which require full prisons, wouldn’t that mean state legislators are going to pass laws which might help fill those prisons?

It kind of goes back to the marijuana argument.  The debate for many isn’t whether or not the substance is dangerous, but the fact that a lot of people make a lot of money because marijuana is illegal.

Well, these companies running these private prisons are making a lot of money by having full prisons.  You don’t think that kick-backs and other unethical behavior might lead to legislators doing their best to ensure that these prisons continue to make profits?

This legislation just seems like basic common sense, though it wouldn’t shock me if it never becomes law.

But this whole situation just highlights the bigger problem of a for-profit private prison system.  Because I don’t know about you, but it’s a little terrifying for me to think that the lives of millions of Americans might be forever ruined because our private prison system needed to boost revenue.

And how do you do that?  By locking more people up.

Just because we’re a country based on capitalism doesn’t mean everything should be for-profit.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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