Privatization Does Not Work for America


This space has often addressed the unhealthy phenomena known as "privatizing". This idea, that doing a necessary service cheaper but without any guarantee that it will be done as well, or even acceptably, is somehow currently viewed as not only acceptable but "good policy". Somehow, contracting out the nation's responsibilities to companies that pay very low wages, no benefits and provide less than ethical training is seen as an improvement over the past era of well-trained, well paid and motivated government employees.

Why this period of equitable service for the American public is coming to an end can, of course, be summed up with those nonsense words, "small government". The Right, in their unthinking push towards the destruction of anything that slightly benefits the poor and middle- class while amassing greater and greater personal fortunes, have been very successful in stealing the American tax dollar while providing minimal value in return.

No where is the drive towards the depths of greed more evident than in the pressure to privatize the over crowded state and federal prison systems. Texas, the leader in any conservative effort to destroy 200 years of progress, has sold out much of the state prison system to Capital Correctional Resources Inc. (CCRI), among others. Even other states have sent their excess prisoners to these penal factories rather than invest in building or improving their own prison systems.

Now, the horrors of privatizing prisons are quickly becoming evident. The FBI is investigating many alleged instances of sadistic civil rights abuses in these private prisons. Guards were caught on videotape beating handcuffed inmates at the Brazoria County, Texas Detention Center. In another tape from the same facility, a screaming inmate was repeatedly bitten by a police German shepard and a second inmate with an injured ankle was prodded in the buttocks with an electronic stun gun. Guards clad in riot gear could be seen, in another tape, forcing Missouri inmates to crawl down a hall while other inmates were compelled to lay face down while cell to cell drug search was conducted. A CCRI guard, Wilton Wallace, a Major in the Texas prison system at the Brazoria prison, was sentenced earlier for a beating incident in which he used a nightstick on a prisoner. The same Major had previously been sentenced to five months in jail after pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor for another beating. The FBI is further investigating reports that guards at an east Texas prison routinely used pepper spray on inmates at another CCRI run facility.

These are but a very few of the reported incidents of abuses in most of the prison systems that states have sold out to Corporate America. Workers paid as little as possible and with little or no benefits are not capable of doing the dangerous and stressful job of running the nation's penal systems. Dennis Walker, CCRI's security director, who was for some reason unaware of Wallace's conviction, expressed his attitude towards internal security by stating, "We screen and get applicants. The rest is up to the Sheriff's office."

After learning of the rampant abuses in the private Texas prison system, Oklahoma and Missouri recently transferred nearly 700 prisoners back to the states in which they were sentenced.

Ladies and gentlemen, privatization simply does not work. Like any instance where Corporate America is given the privilege of providing services to the American people, they take advantage of every situation in order to make maximum profits while providing minimal worth. We, as a nation, are slowly just getting used to the least possible level of satisfaction from those who are taking our money. This is exactly the state of affairs that Corporate America has been training America to put up with and they are certainly succeeding. Businesses who contract to provide the services that governments have always offered have no incentive to surpass the levels government could. The reality is the opposite; government did the job because it needed to be done, Corporate America does it because they can do less without you even noticing while they make obscene profits.

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Write me at:jcannon@anotherperspective.org

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Copyright 8/22/97