Monday, April 11, 2011

Privatization = No Transparency, No Accountability

Private prison operators are, simply put, not transparent in their actions or work. They are not bound by laws popularly called "open records," "Freedom of information," or "sunshine" laws, regulations that force governments to disclose information on practically every area of their work for public scrutiny. This allows for greater oversight of government functions, essential to any healthy democracy. Because how can we be expected to make informed decisions on how we are governed without information on how we're governed, and how our money is spent?

But alas, the industry as I mentioned is not bound by such laws (except in Florida and Tennessee), because it is comprised of private organizations. Apparently, this disregard for openness and accountability extends beyond the major companies to the smaller operations, and even companies that contract for specific operations within the prison system. For example, the title link goes to a story about two companies who have repeatedly failed to provide the state of Kentucky with information on their contract performance. One of those companies provides halfway house treatment for ex-offenders, and was apparently raking in so much profit (in a budget comprised almost entirely of government funds) that they were able to maintain a luxury suite for sporting events. When their contract was being reviewed however, "Because the detailed information [the government] requested wasn't provided, [the government] could not determine if state and federal funds were spent appropriately and the extent of other excessive or unusual expenditures." Great.

The other company is one you'd probably recognize by name alone; Aramark. Now Aramark has had a bit of a bad history with the state of Kentucky, for which it provides food to its prisoners. Prisoners rioted multiple times over the quality and quantity of food they were being served by Aramark, and anyone with some knowledge of prisons knows riots are a rather unusual occurence, sparked only by the most egregious of violations of rights. But, since Aramark is a private company, they too aren't required to turn over records on operating expenses, staffing, and the like. So there's not even a reasonable way to assess whether they have performed to the minimum requirements of their contract with the state (I don't think it's a stretch to imagine though that feeding prisoners so poorly they wind up rioting would be a breach of contract).

So forgive me for once again beating my anti-privatization drum, but I fear this impending wave of privatization Republicans have ridden in on, and the implications it holds for our future. Privatizing government services is never a good idea; it leads to corruption, abuse, and a complete lack of accountability. Which is probably exactly what Republicans want.

No comments:

Post a Comment