The private prison industry in America is a lucrative multi-billion dollar business, so much so that states are shipping prisoners hundred and thousands of miles to be warehoused in these for-profit jails.
According to a new report and infographic (below) by Grassroots Leadership, there are at least 10,500 prisoners who have been shipped to jails outside of the state that they were convicted in. This practice makes millions for the private prison industry and is all paid for by taxpayer money.
“The practice of shipping prisoners out of state is costly, it’s unsustainable, it’s hurting families,” stated Holly Kirby, of Grassroots Leadership, on Wednesday. “These transfers allow states to avoid making common-sense reforms.”
“With little public scrutiny, state officials have pointed to overcrowding as justification for sending incarcerated people to out-of-state prisons, rather than prioritizing decarceration and sustainable alternatives to incarceration to address prison overcrowding,” added Kirby.
According to the Grassroots Leadership report, Locked Up & Shipped Away: Interstate Transfers and the Private Prison Industry, there are four states that send their inmates to private prisons in other states, which are all owned by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
Vermont sends its prisoners to CCA jails in Arizona and Kentucky, while Idaho ships inmates to Colorado, and California buses its prisoners to Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Amazingly, Hawaii flies its inmates to Arizona. West Virginia is planning to do the same.
Families of these prisoners, many of whom are non-violent drug offenders, must now scrape together thousands of dollars just to visit their incarcerated kin.
CCA, which makes enormous profits in the prison business, defended this practice of human shipping and warehousing by claiming to provide relief for states that have prison overcrowding.
“We are proud that we’ve been one of the very beneficial tools that state policy makers have used to address prison overcrowding that the federal courts have deemed unconstitutional,” CCA public affairs manager Mike Machak told Salon.com in an email.
While it is true that the state of California has been ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to solve its prison overcrowding problem, the solution that CCA doesn't mention is releasing non-violent drug offenders.
CCA also has quota deals with some states to ensure it will make millions, even when the local crime rates falls, noted Mother Jones.
“We have over 16 years of transferring inmates out of state [from Idaho], to facilities where we found abuse and poor living conditions, squalor, understaffing and deaths, including suicide and deaths within facilities that couldn’t be monitored because of a lack of transparency, because quite frankly, they were out of state,” said Monica Hopkins, of the ACLU in Idaho.