Yesterday, I Slogged about the new study from Washington State University on the economic effects of for-profit prisons. It concluded (surprise, surprise) that they're vampiric—instead of delivering on their promises of jobs and economic activity for rural, depressed communities, they drive wages and employment down.
Plus, they sound like terrible places to work. One Texas state senate committee found a ninety percent annual turnover rate in its for-profit prisons. And every week brings some new story about things going haywire in one of those poorly run holes.
As for the economics, the study couldn't have put it more plainly:
Specifically, new prisons in states undergoing a rapid shift towards privatization are inversely related to employment growth.
Matt Stroud, a prison specialist over at Forbes also mentioned the WSU study, but seems baffled by it:
It’s tough to know where to practically apply this research. In many cases, private prisons get built because the alternative (or at least the alternative stated by politicians) would be closing other prisons down. In essence — and I’m generalizing here — states will often run into a budget deficit and receive offers from private contractors to operate state run prisons at a reduced rate instead of raising taxes or closing a particularly costly prison altogether to amend a portion of the budget problem.
By his logic, a crappy for-profit prison—crappy for its prisoners, employees, and surrounding community—is better than no prison at all, since states are broke and people need jobs.
Here's another idea, Forbes, one that addresses all the concerns—it saves state money, generates tax revenue, decreases prison populations, and creates new jobs and economic activity for rural/agricultural communities.
Legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana.
We don't need more for-profit prisons. We need more sensible drug laws. Shouldn't that be obvious by now?