[This week has been crazy busy, cutting my writing time incredibly short, so apologies for the infrequent posts]

Today, folks, I’d like to share with you a presentation about investment opportunities from a Barclays analyst, regarding the private prison industry. In it, we’re given both a tour and a statistical breakdown to showcase the wonderful opportunities for profit. This offers us a glimpse inside the minds and motives of those behind the recent shift to privatized incarceration, and it’s more than a little disturbing. Business Insider called it “the creepiest presentation we’ve ever seen” in their title, and that’s more than fitting.

Despite everyone’s wariness, this presentation is quite informative. Through it we learn that private prisons hold a quickly growing share of America’s inmates (~10%). There’s tremendous opportunities for growth, as they describe factors like ageing and decaying public prisons and the explosive growth in new immigration detention facilities. Interestingly enough, they show charts which suggest prison populations actually grow most in good economic times. Underlying this all, of course, is a dramatic rise in prison populations and incarceration rates over the last 30 years.

This ties in with the privatization of police and other enforcement duties, such as the growth in “private military contractors” (mercenaries) and private security. As always, it provokes two main fears. First that there will be a loss of the little accountability we see now with police, prisons and armies under government control. Second, there’s the profit motive. At what point does money become more important than rehabilitation, peace or justice? How much influence will the owners of these corporations have in creating new laws and wars for their own purposes. Crime rates have been on a slow but relatively steady decline for decades, but the numbers in prison keep rising. This is matched by increasing police budgets and of course military budgets which still remain at Cold War levels – it’s obvious that even public armies and police forces, financial motives are at least as important to those making decisions as any realistic “threat” to our societies. It has now been four decades since Eisenhower warned about the rising Military-Industrial Complex, but in that time it’s only grown to incredible new heights.

I’ll be the first to argue that our “justice” system needs a complete overhaul, but this is not the direction it needs to take. Our current system is brutal, racist and ineffective, to name a few of the many obvious flaws. Trying to privatize this process won’t fix any of that – it will only increase the drive towards “policing for the sake of policing”, which never makes us any more safe.

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