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Prisoner Quotas Keep Profits High for Private Prison Companies

One would think that a decreasing crime rate and shrinking prison population would be a good thing for citizens of a community, but for some it isn’t. If your state or local government has a contract with a private prison, you as a taxpayer may have to pay for empty prison beds.

A report released by public advocacy group In the Public Interest revealed that close to two-thirds of contracts between governments and private prison companies have an occupancy quota that ensures they turn a profit.

While the quotas range from 70 percent in California to 100 percent in some Arizona prisons, the majority hovers around 90-95 percent occupancy. This is a guarantee in their contract; otherwise the state has to pay them for the empty beds and cells.

The United States imprisons more people per capita than any other country in the world, according to Pew Research and Al Jazeera.

Many federal and state prisons are overcrowded, and public advocates believe that these private prison quotas direct policymakers to keep prison occupancy high—and thus the profits for the private prison companies—rather than focusing their efforts on reducing crime, recidivism, or revising approaches to crime, such as mandatory drug sentencing.

Proponents of the quotas say that it protects the government’s interests so the beds in private prisons aren’t sold to another agency. Yet critics say that this is just another way to funnel public money into private interests with very little oversight to ensure that money is being well-spent. They believe that public safety is not served by adding a profit-motive.

California Governor Jerry Brown has asked the federal government to give him three years to focus on reducing his state’s prison populations by enacting measures that will allow convicts to return to society and not another prison. 


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