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PLN managing editor quoted in article about private prison bed guarantees

The Daily Advertiser, Jan. 1, 2013.
PLN managing editor quoted in article about private prison bed guarantees - The Daily Advertiser 2013

State 'lockup quota' among nation's highest

Sep. 19, 2013

BATON ROUGE — A national survey has found that Louisiana guarantees private prisons operating in the state that they will have at least 96 percent occupancy.

And if they don’t, the state pays them that much, anyway.

A study by In the Public Interest point out what it calls “the shocking prevalence of contract language between private prison companies and state and local governments that either guarantee prison occupancy rates, (which it calls “lockup quotas,”) or force taxpayers to pay for empty beds if the prison population falls due to lower crime rates or other factors.”

The report labels payment for nonexistent prisoners “low-crime taxes.”

Louisiana’s for-profit prison contracts have what the study calls “a staggering 96 percent occupancy guarantee clause,” but it is not the highest.

Arizona has three contracts that contain 100 percent occupancy guarantee clauses. Oklahoma has three contracts with a 98 percent occupancy guarantee provision.

Following Louisiana’s 96 percent is Virginia, which has one prison with guaranteed 95 percent occupancy.

All major prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Global Expertise in Outsourcing (GEO) Group and Management and Training Corporation (MTC), have negotiated prison quotas into their contracts.

In 2012, the study says, CCA sent letters to governors in 48 states offering to purchase state prisons if 90 percent occupancy rates were guaranteed. No state accepted the offer.

Gov. Bobby Jindal tried in 2012 to get the Legislature to sell the state prison in Marksville but lawmakers rejected the move.

Of the 62 private prison contracts ITPI received and analyzed, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) include occupancy guarantees and force taxpayers to pay for empty prison beds if the “lockup quota” is not met.
During a teleconference on the release of the report, Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, said “Private prison companies are gaming the system to guarantee themselves profits at the expense of taxpayers and, worst of all, at the expense of people’s freedom. Governments should cease working with this corrupt industry and reclaim public control of corrections.”

Shar Habibi, ItPI research and policy director and author of the report, “For-profit prison companies have threatened our public safety and have taken advantage of our justice system for too long.”

Habibi said the quotas lead to overcrowding, which often adds to inmate violence, and private prisons are under no obligation to try to rehabilitate inmates.

“Just because it's legal doesn't make right for shareholders to make a profit off of incarceration of our fellow citizens. Humanity deserves better than this, said Justin Jones, former Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director and longtime opponent of for-profit prisons.

Jones said his opposition to private prisons contributed to his leaving Oklahoma state government in August.

“As a private prison expert who began researching the industry while incarcerated in a for-profit prison, I can tell you firsthand that private prison companies are profitable only because they are ethically bankrupt, with taxpayers footing the bill,” said Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.

The Rev. Michael McBride, director of Urban Strategies and Lifelines to Healing in the PICO National Network said “We have a moral charge to rehabilitate incarcerated persons, not to provide an incentive for filling up cells. These lockup quotas are morally reprehensible. Our value as people of faith is that no one should be defined by the worst thing they’ve done in their life.”

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