Often in discussions with friends about the need for substantive reform in our prison systems; the standard rebuttal I hear is the “prison industrial complex.” And this is generally followed by some version of a conspiracy theory involving contracts and inmate occupation level guarantees needed for a profitable business which I honestly just have a hard time crediting.
Well… imagine my surprise a few weeks ago reading an article on The Huffington Post about the Mississippi prisoner shortages. That the shift of prisoners from the corporate jails to the state/community run lock ups are driving the industrial prisons to dire straights. And the community based solutions aren’t working well either. And that the state is focusing on the loss of jobs for these areas, rather than the larger societal gains made by incarcerating fewer people.
“By the end of May, we’ll be well over a quarter-million in the red on that facility,” said Bond of Stone County’s facility. “If they do not send us our inmates back, we can’t make it.”
We all know we incarcerate the highest percentage rate of people of any country in the world. How much tax money at the city, state, and national levels could be freed up if we realized the larger negative effects these patterns have on our society. I have to admit as well that it galls me that the land of the Free and the Brave represents freedom to fewer of its citizens than Russia as a percentage of the population. I’ve seen no supporting case that our citizens are generally more unlawful than any other country, and that our incarceration rates are appropriate by any measuring stick.
While I don’t think they are really doing it on purpose, I honestly congratulate Mississippi on reducing its incarcerated population, and I hope that they see this as an opportunity to further reform the system – and work to make their jails and prisons a necessary evil rather than a profitable one.