Breaking the chains of profit motives from incarceration in California


ORANGE IS NOT THE NEW BLACK: Private prisons are inhumane, corporate moneymakers.

Nawal Abdul, Staff Writer

California passed a bill banning private, for-profit prisons, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, on Sept. 11, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will also shut down four large immigration detention centers in the state. This move fulfills a promise Governor Gavin Newsom made in January to shut down all private prisons in the state.

Private prisons, created to gen-erate profit off an otherwise tax-consuming system, have been a desperate grab at maintaining the institution of slavery since they began in 1983. By forcing inmates to work for well below humane wages (12 cents/hour base pay of most prisons), corporations are legally allowed to capitalize off citizens under the guise that they are rehabilitating them.

In theory, working in prison gives inmates an opportunity to leave the system with money so they can restart their lives. In practice, however, corporations like CoreCivic use inmates to generate an approximate $1.8 billion in revenue annually, according to Time magazine. That money is used to back legislation like mandatory minimum sentencing or looser regulations on private prisons, that puts inmates at further disadvantages.

The ultimate goal of private prisons is, and always has been, to profit off of “free resources.” This incentivizes the creation (and passing) of legislation built solely to diminish inherent human rights. It also creates an avenue for extensive corruption in the national legislature when revenue is spent on backing certain leaders’ re-election campaigns in exchange for their vote on the Senate floor. As a result, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), private prison incarceration rates have risen 1600 percent nationwide from 1990 to 2009.

By legally allowing corporations to exploit inmates, the central government sets a tone of utter disregard for human rights throughout the corporate system. If big business can exploit these members of society, what stops them from exploiting everyone else that’s been disenfranchised by careless legislation?

California banning private prisons is essentially telling the federal government to continue to put money above people, even if those people are criminals, is morally wrong and against its duty as a governing body. More than that, it’s stating that a vast number of the population of the country, the largest state that it is, doesn’t support, nor will it stand, for the degradation of human rights occurring in a country that’s meant to value the importance of life above all.