There are two stories I wanted to highlight today, both of which deal with the failure of the private prison industry to deliver on its promises of economic stimulus. Private prisons are often pitched to small towns and rural communities as vehicles of economic growth, with promises of tax revenues and jobs. Unfortunately though, many of these prisons are built on the speculation that they'll be filled (meaning no contract to house prisoners is in place before many of these prisons are built), but the contracts don't always come through as planned. For a great example of how this happens, see the example set by Hardin, Montana, which was conned by Corplan Corrections and still has a jail that sits empty, 5 years after it was built.
So the first article comes from the small town of Littlefield, TX. A small town desperate for economic stimulus, Littlefield financed the construction of a private prison for nearly $11 million dollars. After the prison was built in 2000, the GEO Group was hired to run it. In the shocker of the century, the facility was plagued with violence, assaults, and escapes to the degree that Idaho, the state whose prisoners comprised the largest segment of the population, decided to pull all its prisoners from the facility. Shortly thereafter, the GEO Group backed out of operating the facility. The town however was still on the hook because it had financed the facility, and is now facing a bill of $65,000 per month. Unfortunately, "Littlefield is not alone. Several other Texas towns that build prisons to be
run by private companies have found the prisons to be financial
drains." Littlefield actually auctioned off the prison a few days ago, to an undisclosed buyer, but the damage has been done to the city's bond rating.
The other article comes from our friends up north, where British Columbia lawmakers are debating where they should place a new private prison. Of course, the town is hoping for some stimulus from the prison in terms of revenue and jobs. While this has not yet turned into a money pit like Hardin and Littlefield, the article goes on to describe how BC is looking to save money by privatizing, and discusses all the great economic benefits of bringing a prison. But what really caught my eye is a quote they pulled from the Economist, hardly the left-wing rag, which discusses the nature of privatized corrections and how the savings achieved in terms of dollars and cents may not be worth the toll privatization takes on humans who experience it. The Economist said, "It is 'hard
to see the expansion of a forprofit industry with a permanent interest in
putting ever more people in cages as consistent with either efficiency or