Investment advice: put your money into prisons

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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26 Responses

  1. Cascadian says:

    You’re preaching to the choir here of course. Setting a profit motive for incarceration has a foreseeable conclusion: more incarceration. I recently dealt with part of the legal system in Colorado which appears to be privatized. I had to send a $1.50 check to get a form by mail that I then had to resend. The form should have been printable. It was nothing special. Privatizing isn’t necessarily more efficient….

    On the broader point, we’re saddling the next generations with amazing amounts of debt to pay for past generations while taking away their ability to compete. This, likewise, has a foreseeable conclusion.Report

  2. North says:

    Agreed of course E.D. On a brighter note by the way ol’ TNR has rolled out a nice article about ending the War on Drugs.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    Speaking of incentives, perhaps if we were able to harvest organs from criminals, we could make the lives of innocent civilians better and longer lasting, make some of the most expensive aspects of health care significantly cheaper, plus it would help reduce costs associated with the overhead of room/board of criminals.

    I don’t see a downside.Report

  4. greginak says:

    Wow way to sound like a flaming liberal ED. Another thing about private prisons is they have absolutely no incentive to rehabilitate or to try to cut down on recidivism.

    “Revenues were artificially high, but if these cuts are necessary now then we obviously were spending too much as well.”

    I’m not seeing that. there are some things, like education, that you have focus on paying enough to do a good job and if you don’t have enough money then you go get it. I don’t believe you determine how much is correct to spend based on deficits or budgets per se, but on whether you are meeting your goals.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to greginak says:

      Education is very, very important I don’t care what ideology you hail from. I think there is a lot of waste and way too much red tape in our current system though, and I think federalizing schools is the wrong approach. I think dependency on the federal government in education has been a huge failure and should be avoided (so much for flaming liberal, right?) But privatization, while very good in many things, runs too many negative risks when it comes to the legal system or war.Report

      • greginak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Well it was shrub who did more to put the feds in educations then any lib nor do I recall it being a major lib plank to federalize education. Of course the fractured nature of education system does make reform much harder.Report

        • Cascadian in reply to greginak says:

          I’m not sure if my position would be considered lib or con on this (as if it mattered). Education reform starts at home. You’re not going to get much improvement without changing the way people look at their young. We don’t need education reform as much as we need parental reform.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Cascadian says:

            We need a “Parent Czar”.Report

            • Cascadian in reply to Jaybird says:

              True. What could be more efficient and effective than a czar? Maybe we could get Bill Bennett.Report

            • Kyle in reply to Jaybird says:

              Power to the Presidency!Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              Something like this:


              Health and safety inspectors are to be given unprecedented access to family homes to ensure that parents are protecting their children from household accidents.

              New guidance drawn up at the request of the Department of Health urges councils and other public sector bodies to “collect data” on properties where children are thought to be at “greatest risk of unintentional injury”.

              I can’t think of a single reason that a good parent might possibly oppose this sort of thing. Only the guilty need fear, and all that.Report

              • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m a little lost for words here, Jaybird.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                The fundamental problem I have with the vector we appear to be on is that we are outsourcing more and more of our decision-making to the government.

                We have prison guard unions who argue that we cannot lessen penalties for certain crimes because it might result in a loss of their job security. We have outsourced our child-rearing and child socialization to the government… and Britain is showing where that vector will lead. This is the vector we are on. This is where we are going.

                We are outsourcing two very, very important things to the State Government that used to be taken care of by local groups and outsourcing to the Federal Government things that used to be taken care of by the States.

                This is a bad vector to be on.Report

              • Cascadian in reply to Jaybird says:

                Hows about making sure there’s sex ed and condoms so we don’t get children we don’t want. Maybe provide social supports and protections for professionals that actually want to spend time with their families. Heck, we could get crazy and give a year parental leave like they do in Canuckistan. Maybe even financial incentives such as tax breaks for families that keep a parent home with adequate benefit to the child. Or we could just do the czar thing. Maybe unionize child care workers.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Cascadian says:

                We need a Czar.Report

  5. Kyle says:

    I’m curious, E.D. does Arizona have prison guards unions?

    I ask because that’s one of California’s lovely perks. Which, in effect, has had a similar effect as privatizing prisons. They’re maybe the only special interest more powerful than teachers’ unions in Sacramento and regularly defeat propositions and legislation meant to reducing sentencing or otherwise limit or reduce our prison population.

    Which isn’t to irrationally blame unions but to point to another vehicle for creating some of the same incentive structures.

    That said, education funding is a mess. The bailouts saved education from massive cuts – as you well noted – but the structural problems that created the spending deficit have only worsened. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s worse, inadequate spending in arguably most of the Union, or that the typical response to declining tax revenue/enrollment is to lobby/protest for more funds, rather than spend funds more efficiently.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Kyle says:

      Kyle, I believe so. And yes – the prison guard unions are hugely problematic across the country. The same exact problem as profiting off of crime, since their interests are very similar. And they have powerful lobbies.Report

  6. Kyle Cupp says:

    “Otherwise shareholders in prison companies are going to make way too much money.”

    You know, sometimes I wish I didn’t have scruples. Good post.Report