For-Profit Incarceration: Every American Should Be Appalled

Prisoners inside prison yard. (photo: AP)
Prisoners inside prison yard. (photo: AP)


John Kiriakou | Reader Supported News | March 2, 2016

he country’s two largest private prison corporations, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) released their annual financial reports last week, showing that they each made thousands of dollars in profits per prisoner incarcerated. GEO made a profit of $2,135 per prisoner, while CCA squeezed out $3,356. This is most certainly not cause for celebration.

Indeed, every American should be appalled that there are companies that profit on human misery and that can guarantee a profit only by denying human beings basic medical care and necessities. Moreover, the national conversation should not be one of how to incarcerate more and more people for less and less money, but how to rehabilitate them at a cost far less than incarceration.

The research and policy organization In the Public Interest estimates that the cost of rehabilitation is not only significantly lower than the cost of incarceration, ($35,350 per prisoner in the federal system) it is, in many cases, even lower than the per-person profits of the private prison companies. For example, the annual cost per prisoner of community-based services for arrested teenagers is only $1,000; resources and support for released prisoners re-entering society is $1,200; math, reading, and writing classes in prison are $1,600; vocational training in prison is $2,000; and substance abuse counseling for released prisoners is $2,700. Even residential drug treatment as an alternative to prison is $17,000 per person, less than half the cost of incarceration.

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