Lowering Recidivism Rates in U.S. Prisons - Is it Possible - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

State-funded prisons in Delaware allow inmates to reduce their sentences by up to 60 days by completing recidivism programs.

Many state-funded prisons have implemented their own partnerships with colleges that allow inmates to earn college degrees – a tricky budgetary feat for most, since Congress decided in 1999 that inmates are not eligible for Pell grants.

Some state-funded prisons even bring in homeless pets so inmates can train them to be good family members in forever homes.

One thing that all of these programs have in common is that they lower the inmates’ risks of reoffending once they’re back in society.

The other thing they all have in common is that they’re under public control.

The Privatization of American Prisons

U.S. taxpayer money pays for all prisons, which is common across societies – there’s nothing unusual about that. However, what is unusual is that many American prisons are owned by private, for-profit corporations.

Opponents of privately owned prisons claim that the prisons have no incentive to keep people from reoffending; more people in prison means more money for the corporation (to the tune of about $30,000 per year, per inmate).

Proponents say that for-profit prisons create better conditions for inmates and society while keeping offenders off the streets for longer.

The fact remains that for-profit prisons don’t often implement programs that reduce recidivism rates, while not-for-profit prisons often do when budgetary constraints allow.

The Ever-Present Prison Lobby

Like any large group that wants to be heard, the prison industry has plenty of lobbyists to chisel away at politicians in Washington.

GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America, the two largest for-profit prison companies in the U.S., have donated more than $10 million to political candidates and have spent close to $25 million on lobbying. One example is Florida’s Marco Rubio, who awarded a state government contract to GEO for a $110 million prison after receiving nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from the corporation.

What Do You Think?

Have privatized prisons in the U.S. gone too far, or is keeping inmates under the umbrella of corporations a good idea? Do you hope to see more prisons implementing programs that reduce recidivism rates or are you more inclined to hope for punishment over rehabilitation?

I’d love to hear what you think, so share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Carlos Gamino