Prisons for Profit in the United States: Retribution and Means vs. Ends

Journal for Human Rights 6 (1):76-93 (2012)
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The recent trend toward privately owned and operated prisons calls attention to a variety of issues involving human rights. The growing number of corporatized correctional institutions is especially notable in the United States, but it is also a global phenomenon in many countries. The reasons cited for privatizing prisons are usually economic; the opportunity to outsource prison services enables local political leaders to save tax revenue, and local communities are promised a chance to create new jobs and bring in a new industry. This article will address the history of prisons and the recent trend toward privatizing prisons and the perception of prisons as a for-profit enterprise. This new economic order brings with it a set of human rights concerns, including the relationship of for-profit prisons to increased numbers of incarcerated persons and increased sentences, racism and classism. The contractual relationship between political leaders and prison corporations will be addressed, noting that conditions of liability frequently mean that prison administrations lack motivation to safeguard the human rights of prisoners. The human rights issues often extend outside of the private prison itself, having a negative effect on the local community.
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