Profitable Prisons

August 18, 2016
By Kristen Johnson

Today the United States leads the world in incarceration rates. There are now over 2.2 million people in our jails and prisons. This constitutes a 500 percent increase over the past 40 years. (United Methodist Women)

If you care about incarceration rates in our country (and you should, particularly when it comes to rates for non-whites) then you should be pleased to find out that today we finally got a teeny-tiny glimmer of hope. President Obama announced today a reduction, and ultimate end, to funding for private for-profit prisons.

Let’s start with that phrase “for-profit.” It’s inconceivable to me that there are large corporations (three in fact) that actually “profit” from incarcerating people.

Huffington Post: According to the Sentencing Project, 2.2 million Americans are in prison or jail. More than half of federal prisoners are incarcerated for drug crimes in 2010, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and that number has only just dipped below 50percent in 2011.

I guess I can now understand why there is always such a fight to legalize drugs. If these big corporations can’t house “criminals” then they can’t charge the taxpayers and they can’t “profit” from misery.

The reason given for the shutdown of the for-profit prisons is safety issues for prisoners and prisoner guards. Consider me unimpressed – we should be shutting them down because drug offenders do NOT belong in prisons, they are notoriously unfair in sentencing to black/brown people, etc. But, at this point, I consider any progress to be a good thing. So, I’m going to celebrate this tiny victory.

Psalm 146:7 (NRSV): who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;

I believe it is our responsibility as Liberal Christians to execute justice for the oppressed – and one great place to start is by freeing non-violent criminals from overly-harsh prison sentences. Drug offenders belong in rehab – NOT in prison.

Serve all with love.

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