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Large corporations rarely make the front page for their integrity when it comes to ethical dilemmas, and unfortunately private prison corporations are no different. They are not concerned in the slightest until they are caught cutting corners. A few months ago a prison in Minnesota denied a 27 year old inmate access to medical care after he suffered multiple seizures, leaving him to die in a puddle of urine. Medical care is supposed to be available to inmates at all times, but ambulance access is limited and monitored in an effort to “cut costs”. Even when an ambulance appeared at the jail to bring the inmate to safety, it was turned away. This is not an isolated or uniquely gruesome case. Private corporations have no monetary motive for respecting human rights, and therefore do not.
The increasing privatization of prisons and the enormous amount of our nation’s citizens incarcerated in these privately run institutions raise a lot of questions about human rights and what a prison sentence actually accomplishes. The idea of “paying one’s debt to society” seems outdated and irrelevant in the realm of private, “for-profit” prisons. Yes, these people are being punished for a crime committed which was somehow detrimental to society, but where is the line drawn between punishing and profiting when the latter is overtly the only difference between government run and privately run prisons? And why should one individual collect a profit on the debt that another owes to society?
The intent of prison is supposed to be to rehabilitate problematic criminals into law abiding citizens, but when the overt goal of a prison is to maximize its profit margin, this theoretical goal can be overlooked or thrown out all together in favor of making everybody at the top richer. It is very disconcerting to think that beyond punishing you for an illegal act for a finite amount of time, a prison, and those running it, would have an incentive to extend your stay or to take steps to advance any greedy self-serving goal without regard for society as a whole. Unfortunately the state of affairs in our nation; prisons are turned over to the private sector where corners are cut in favor of reducing the cost of doing business, and inmates are treated like livestock.
Amidst all of the right wing hullabaloo about the evils of government and the awesome Americanized might of private business, I find it extremely disturbing that an increasing number of lives are ending up under the umbrella of ruthless, greedy corporations.