Sunday, July 27, 2008

Criticisms aired of Nacogdoches private prison proposal

In Nacogdoches recently, the head of the local economic development corporation told officials the prison would be so nice people would "want to break in." But a newly formed local group and students at Stephen F. Austin University are opposing plans to open a new private immigration detention center in that county.

Some criticism of the idea comes from surprising quarters: "Prisons are an inherently governmental function," says East Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert," And I struggle with whether or not we should have private prisons at all."

In the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, reporter Andrew Goodridge yesterday offered up one of the best media analyses I've seen in quite a while on the pros and cons of private prisons for rural communities ("Dollars and Sentences: Prisons more than just an issue of economics," July 26). Citing quite a bit of academic research on the subject, Goodridge concludes that:

recent research shows that prisons aren't necessarily the economic boon they were once thought.

And in rural areas, prisons have, in some cases, proven to be more of a hindrance to economic development than a help.

Goodridge cited other research questioning cost saving claims of private prisons, including a recent criminology article that declared there's:

"no reason to believe that private prisons can or are saving money as compared to public prisons."

A 2001 Bureau of Justice Statistics report also states that "savings simply have not materialized."

What's more, writes Goodridge, "Because these prisons are privately owned, they do not have to comply with the Freedom of Information act, and they tend to refuse access to records and files."

These excerpts are just a taste from a longer, substantive piece that deserves to be read in its entirety. (Our pal Bob Libal from the blog Texas Prison Bidness was among the many sources quoted.) Scant few local media outlets provide their readers with this level of background and detail before officials make decisions about jail and prison privatization, so Goodridge and Sentinel editors deserve credit for going the extra mile.

SEE ALSO: Recent coverage of private prisons in Texas from Mother Jones, via Texas Prison Bidness.

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