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149-150). When the inmate failed to deliver on the guards' demands, the guards then planted drugs in the inmate's bunk (p. 150). The inmate was subsequently prosecuted, and received an extended sentence (p. 150).
Often people will doubt these kinds of stories, because, after all, the inmates are already imprisoned for offenses like drugs, and often much worse kinds of crimes. This puts the inmates at risk of guards and other prison employees who might not embrace a high set of ethics or personal morals. Everyone wants to see crime punished, but when the crimes are being committed within the prison environment, people seem to be less concerned about them, even if they are crimes being committed by the guards or prison officials. People should, in fact, be very concerned about these kinds of crimes, because it is the prison officials and those employees, including guards, who are willing to commit crimes against people who are vulnerable, and then those same employees, guards or others are free, unlike the prisoners, to leave the institutions and move about society at the end of the day.
Staffing problems at the private prison is probably the greatest ethical concern, because the BOP has set high standards of personal integrity and in the number of employees who must be on duty at any given time.
Analysis and Personal Ideas
One of the problems with managing a prison is that there are not a lot of people who find the work compelling enough to want to take on the job. However, given the task, I would work to eliminate corporate private enterprise in the prison system, because inevitably the bottom line is profit. Writing for Duke Law Journal, Sharon Dolovich (2005) looked at the question of the feasibility of a private corporate system that would contain the rising cost of prison system management (in the late 1980s and 1990s) (Dolovich, p. 437). The greatest problem that Dolovich cited was the for-profit approach underlying the choice of management to replace the state system. This makes sense, because in order for a corporation to demonstrate profitability, it must demonstrate growth and an increase in revenues; this would ostensibly mitigate the sense in choosing private prison management to combat the cost of prisons for the states.
In terms of managing the system efficiently so as to recognize a potential profit for incarcerating criminals is less problematic in Dolovich's eyes than is the surrendering of that power and authority over the criminal's mandated state sentence to private enterprise (p. 437).
"Such a focus may be appropriate in many contexts in which privatization is contemplated, but it is not so in the prison context. Incarceration is among the most severe and intrusive manifestations of power the state exercises against its own citizens. When the state incarcerates, it strips offenders of their liberty and dignity and consigns them for extended periods to conditions of severe regimentation and physical vulnerability. Before seeking to ensure efficient incarceration, therefore, it must first be determined if the particular penal practice at issue is even legitimate (Dolovich, p. 437)."
Writing on the subject for the American Criminal Law Review, Ahmed A. White (2001) supports the argument made by Dolovich (p. 111). This question of legitimacy should override the others, because until someone challenges and the courts respond to whether or not handing over the state's authority is indeed legitimate; there are no subsequent issues. So Dolovich makes an important and valid point. Unfortunately there are no challenges, and the public is seemingly completely uninterested in the subject of criminals once they are off the streets and no longer pose a threat to society.
Therefore, as we have and will have, with certainly an increase in the number of them, private prison institutions are the trend and the bottom line of cost supersedes the power and the authority that the state has in being directly responsible for managing the prison systems. Therefore, it would be imperative to ensure that the management is of a high integrity, and that the inmates are not abused, or that their well being does not become lost in corporate profit. For that reason, we might require that monies set aside for healthcare of prisoners must be returned to the state if not utilized for inmate care, rather than allowing the corporation to redirect the funds to their bottom lines as appears to be happening now. The state would then always be aware of how much was budgeted, and how much was spent, versus the lack of knowledge because the funds go to the corporate profit line. This keeps the BOP in that loop, and maintains the state's responsibility in that regard.
Dolovich cites a second problem as the measurement of performance of then private system, and how that is accomplished (p. 437). This is an important component in understanding how effective and cost efficient the private systems are over the state systems. Even though private corporations are private, they are the administrators of public entities, and for that reason they must be prepared to the answer to the public. A separate and distinct non-governmental agency should be established that performs routine checks of the privatized prison systems, much in the same way that the Joint Commission on Accreditation Hospital Organization (JCAHO) that oversees hospitals and provides accreditation. A list of criteria could be established that would accredit and deduct potential points based on inspection and observation, and the prison systems would be subject to one announced inspection, and one unannounced inspection per year. Facilities found deficient would have to pay fines, and correct deficiencies within a prescribed period of time.
This is one step that might be taken to help ensure the integrity and quality of the privatized prison systems. It does not ensure the personal integrity of prison staff, nor does it ensure that the quality of the environment and the treatment of prisoners will always be put first, but it is one way to keep the privatized ownership aware that it is not an area of public responsibility that has been completely forgotten about.
There were once criteria that could be examined in determining an ethical government (Bowman, James and Ellston, Frederick, 1988, p. 32). Those criteria have long gone the wayside, and today there is really no way to look at the government and determine its level of ethical response to the power and authority invested in it. When this condition exists in the state and federal governments, it becomes difficult to have confidence in a privatized system that is charged with the authority and responsibility for maintaining a level of integrity in prison management.
There have long been allegations that the American prison system is a quiet bastion of racism (Robertson, James E., 2006, p. 795). Infiltrating that system with privatization is bound to eventually erupt into more, not less controversy in that regard. Gran and Henry talk about the private system in Ohio that failed to alert law enforcement or the public to a prison escape, even though the threat to the public was high (p. 173). One can only conclude that the reasoning behind withholding such important information from law enforcement and the public was the focus on the system's private bottom line, and how that information might impact it. This is a clear cut example of a lack of integrity in management at several levels, and a lack of integrity as to what the system's responsibility is to the public. The decision to withhold the information was an example of moral nihilism (Rist, John, 2001, p. 10). It demonstrates a conscientious decision to put corporate profit over public safety, and it casts the shadow of doubt on the private sector's ability to manage the American prison systems with an eye towards civic responsibility.
This is a time when the country is seeing a decrease in some areas of incarceration because of three strike laws, but also an increase in other areas. Women serving sentences in prisons have actually increased, and there is an entirely unique set of circumstances surrounding their incarceration and their relationship to the prison employees over time that requires a diligence to the rules and a high personal integrity (Fallinger, Marie, 2006, p. 487). It would only take a few escapes and perhaps even fewer illegitimate children being born in prison during a woman's incarceration to create a snow ball effect in the system that would bring the system into the public eye in a big and bold way. We must take steps now to ensure that there is a system of checks and balances to ensure the safety and integrity of the system if we are going to hand it over to private enterprise.
Bowman, J.S. & Elliston, F.A. (Eds.). (1988). Ethics, Government, and Public Policy: A Reference Guide. New York: Greenwood Press.…[continue]
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