Private Prison Savings Are a Hoax

by Clyde Weiss  |  May 19, 2011

A report today by The New York Times – confirming what AFSCME has said all along – indicates it actually costs taxpayers more to let private prison corporations run state correctional facilities than it does to operate them using public service workers.

The Times report, based on data from the Arizona Department of Corrections, makes clear the financial case against prison privatization:

“… privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons – even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates.”

In that case, how do these private companies get in the door if they don’t really save taxpayers money? AFSCME, which represents 62,000 corrections officers and 23,000 corrections employees nationwide, has looked into how private prison operators grease the wheels of government to get their lucrative contracts. Our new report, “Making a Killing: How Prison Corporations are Profiting from Campaign Contributions and Putting Taxpayers at Risk,” tracks the flow of campaign contributions from these companies to public officials.

What we found is that America’s largest private prison companies “pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of governors, state legislators, and judges” to gain their favor.

The Times report explains how these companies skewer the books to make it look like they save taxpayers’ money. In effect, prison privateers steer clear of those inmates that cost more – the sick, the elderly, even those with “limited physical capacity and stamina.” the Times says. Taxpayers get stuck with those inmates, and their costs. Where are the savings that are supposed to justify turning prisons over to for-profit operators? They don’t exist!

The time has come to end this failed social experiment and provide public correction departments with the resources they need to run secure state prisons.

Read more about that report here. Also, learn more about prison privatization here.

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