Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Private prisons profit from intersate inmate transfers, but at what cost?

It's not just Texas struggling with overcrowded prisons and jails. The New York Times reports today ("States export their inmates as prisons fill," July 31) that more prisoners than ever are being shipped out of state. Many come to Texas, like the poor fellows from Idaho whose plight has received national attention. But as Grits mentioned recently, now Texas private prisons are mostly full, so others wind up in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky. See the map above from the Times for details about who's going where.

Rotating prisoners from unit to unit can harm prisoner health and participation in rehabilitation programs, said the Times:
The frequent moves can also have a disruptive effect on prisons, whether the transfers occur within a state or not, corrections officials said. In California, a federal court official overseeing a revamping of the prison medical system reported more than 170,000 prisoner moves within the state in the first three months of this year. The moves were found to be inhibiting the ability of inmates to receive health care and draining resources.
Perhaps most ominously in the big picture, California may soon begin dumping untold thousands more inmates into this burgeoning national flesh market, but from what I've seen I doubt there's sufficient capacity anywhere to handle their overflow. Then what? How long will states continue to pursue the same failed strategies expecting to produce different results?

BLOGVERSATION: Tom Kirkendall at Houston's Clear Thinkers has more.


Don said...

How long will states continue to pursue the same flawed policy? As long as the "tuff on crime" mantra resonates with the populace when politicians stump for votes. And I don't see it changing. People really don't want to think about these things; they just want to cast a vote that makes them feel good, and forget it. Some of the Idaho prisoners I worked with in BCDC at Littlefield had been in private prisons in four different states, 3 in Texas alone. Incidentally, Idaho may not be a good example because they have a contrived overcrowding problem. IDOC is trying to promote sentiment for building some new prisons, but the legislature isn't buying, so far.

Anonymous said...

That is because there is no linkage between the taxes paid and mass incarceration. As I cynically state: the GOP strongly promotes the idea of a prison spending fairy - instead of taxpayers. Then when budget crunches arise they focus attention on schools and school performance. That's why we have No Child Left Behind [untested? - both for academics and drugs]. It is an elaborate ploy to blame schools for budget problems.
Put a price tag on mass incarceration. Stop pretending that mass incarceration is paid for by less crime. Stop pretending that jail and prison overcrowding does not adversely affect society. We have a chronic sex offender living within 2 blocks of my children precisely because we don't have the option to keep this kind of felon locked away. We have drug offenders in prison but chronic DUI cases and sex offenders out on parole? And BTW, why don't we have treatment for mental problems available to chronic cases anyway? Is that considered "coddling"?

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