Two incarceration stories have lots of people on edge today. First comes breaking news that the two U.S. hikers - Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer – who have been locked up in Tehran’s Evin prison, have finally been released. At the same time, everyone from “a former FBI director, former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI” to European lawmakers are urging that the execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis be stopped, since he’s likely innocent. He's set to die tonight.
So in terms of incarceration news items, the following story may get a little buried.
You may not know this, but we have been privatizing our prison systems for years now. When prisons are privatized, they are run for a profit. You can imagine the results. Actually, no imagination is needed.
One of the biggest players in prison privatization biz is the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), an innocuous-sounding company which describes itself as “the nation’s leading provider of correctional solutions to federal, state and local government” and which boasts of, among other things, “rehabilitating inmates, giving back to communities, and bringing innovative security to government corrections – all while consistently saving hardworking taxpayers’ dollars.”
CCA just settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of inmates at one of CCA’s Idaho prisons, the notorious Idaho Correctional Center. Apparently, this prison,
[W]as so violent it was dubbed “Gladiator School,” and that guards used inmate-on-inmate violence as a management tool and then denied prisoners medical care as a way to cover up the assaults. … “The unnecessary carnage and suffering that has resulted is shameful and inexcusable,” the ACLU wrote in the lawsuit. “ICC not only condones prisoner violence, the entrenched culture of ICC promotes, facilitates, and encourages it.”
CCA denies this, but that denial only goes so far since “the agreement is governed under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which only applies in cases in which prisoners' Constitutional rights have been violated.” CCA has agreed to do better, make improvements and face more litigation if they don’t. If that happens, maybe CCA should consider relocating. I’m sure the Iranian prison system could use their expertise.
UPDATE: Troy Davis, RIP.