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Guest post: The inhumanity of for-profit prisons

By Shelia Bedi/Southern Poverty Law Center

Before Michigan legislators send inmates to a GEO Group operated prison, I urge them to consider Mississippi’s experience with the nation’s second largest private prison operator.

Mississippi’s Walnut Grove Youth Facility was known for its violent and corrupt culture – a culture perpetuated by facility management and staff.  As a result, the GEO Group operated facility was sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU and attorney Robert McDuff. Among the challenges made in the lawsuit: The youth at Walnut Grove suffered unbelievable cruelties. Staffers peddled drugs to them. Guards engaged in sexual relationships with teenagers, and subjected them to extreme periods of isolation. One youth suffered permanent brain damage during an attack in which staff was complicit.

Shelia Bedi is deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The lawsuit was settled last week with a consent decree prohibiting children under the supervision of the Department of Corrections from being housed at Walnut Grove. Still, other states continue to deal with the havoc of for-profit prisons: Oklahoma, Ohio, Hawaii and Kentucky have reported similar incidents of staff misconduct.

Privately run prisons have a strong financial incentive to imprison as many people as possible for as cheaply as possible. The GEO Group netted $1.2 billion in profits in 2011—with $14 million of that from Mississippi taxpayers for the operation of Walnut Grove.

The United States imprisons more people per capita than in any other nation. Profit incentives will only intensify the mass incarceration problem, and expose more people to the gross inhumanities that occurred at the GEO operated Walnut Grove, and that continue to occur at private prisons across the country.

1 comment from a Bridge reader.Add mine!

  1. Allan Blackburn

    If you go in to the Protect Our Jobs web site you then go to the middle of the page and click on; “Bills” to see all of the bills that are being ran through the House and Senate to get rid of collective bargaining, collecting union dues, insuring that voters are disenfranchised, etc. you will see how easy it is to go down the path of privatizing schools and our prisons. This is what happens when you put one party in control of your politics in the state. There is also a maneuver that they are participating in to insure that these bills are never able to be voted on by the public. You attach a certain amount of money to the bill to make it referendum proof. There used to be this thing called democracy in our country. I am mourning it’s loss.

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