The United States has by far the largest prison population in the world. The imprisonment boom that began in the late 1970s has swelled the state and federal prison to more than 2.5 million prisoners. Adding those held in local jails and other lockups (juvenile facilities, immigration detention, etc.), the number of people behind bars continues to rise. The expenditures for corrections increased by 510 per cent between 1982 and 2003, with the bulk of the increase going for expansion and operation of prisons.
The prison expansion is the life blood of the private prison industry. In recent years the debate over privatization of prisons has been focused primarily on the relative costs and performance of private prisons compared to those operated in the public sector.
Increasing attention has been paid to the role the industry appears to play in fostering growth in the number of people behind bars. Political contributions made to politicians who set criminal justice policies, and leadership positions various industry executives filled over many years with the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC), a powerful lobby for prison privatization and get tough penal policies. Corporations with a stake in the expansion of private prisons invested $3.3 million in candidates for state office and state political parties in forty-four states over the 2002-2004 election cycle. Today it is well over $8 million in candidates.
The companies that supply services in prison run the gamut from riot gear to transportation, from food and telephone services to in prison medical services: engaging for-profit services means the difference between life or death for prisoners.
The ramifications of privatizing the prison telephone industry include many families paying hundreds of dollars a month to cover exorbitant rates for collect calls from prisoners. With prison phone companies' contracts currently awarded by Department of Corrections on the basis of the largest kick back and with rates unequalled in any other setting, price-gouging of prisoners' loved ones enriches telecommunication firms and corrections departments alike.
The government and the Department of Corrections are poverty pimps. They are pimping the taxpayer and the State of Michigan.