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August 1, 2007

A disturbing growth industry

prison%20cell.jpgThis New York Times article reports on one of the expensive consequences of the increasing criminalization of everything -- already overcrowded state prisons looking to export inmates:

Chronic prison overcrowding has corrections officials in Hawaii and at least seven other states looking increasingly across state lines for scarce prison beds, usually in prisons run by private companies. Facing a court mandate, California last week transferred 40 inmates to Mississippi and has plans for at least 8,000 to be sent out of state.

The long-distance arrangements account for a small fraction of the country’s total prison population — about 10,000 inmates, federal officials estimate — but corrections officials in states with the most crowded prisons say the numbers are growing. One private prison company that houses inmates both in-state and out of state, the Corrections Corporation of America, announced last year that it would spend $213 million on construction and renovation projects for 5,000 prisoners by next year. [. . .]

But while the out-of-state transfers are helping states that have been unwilling, or too slow, to build enough prisons of their own, they have also raised concerns among some corrections officials about excessive prisoner churn, consistency among the private vendors and safety in some prisons.

Moving inmates from prison to prison disrupts training and rehabilitation programs and puts stress on tenuous family bonds, corrections officials say, making it more difficult to break the cycle of inmates committing new crimes after their release. Several recidivism studies have found that convicts who keep in touch with family members through visits and phone privileges are less likely to violate their parole or commit new offenses. There have been no studies that focused specifically on out-of-state placements.

See related earlier posts here and here. By the way, if you are interested in understanding the main reason why we are dealing with this seemingly endless cycle of criminalization and imprisonment, then check out the clever minute and a half video below for the answer:

Scott Henson, the Texas blogger-expert on prison overcrowding, has more here.

Update: Has America become the Incarceration Nation?

Posted by Tom at August 1, 2007 12:15 AM |

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