Privatizing prisons is a bad move for Michigan – but especially when those introducing the legislation are the ones profiting. Prisons that are privatized lack oversight and threaten public security, especially when a for-profit company is at the helm.

Take the example of the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional facility in rural Mississippi.  A report by the Justice Department describes “Systemic, egregious and dangerous practices” at the facility. 

The report also cited:

Prison staff allegedly had sex with incarcerated youth

Guards brutally beat youth and used pepper spray as a first response.

The prison showed ‘deliberate indifference’ to prisoners possessing homemade knives, which were used in gang fights and inmate rapes.

GEO Group is the private company managing the prison and has since been ousted. It remains to be seen who will take their place in Mississippi, but the volatile and dangerous environment that was allowed exist in the South raises the question of necessary safeguards at other privatized prisons. This also creates the inability to rehabilitate offenders, not to mention jeopardizing public security.

The very same private company responsible for those abhorrent crimes in the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility are the ones who stand to gain from privatizing the prisons in Michigan. Not only is their reputation tarnished, so is the state Representative who introduced the bill. State Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) introduced HB 5147 to privatize prisons in Michigan. As reported by MIRS and Gongwer in February 2012, Rep. Bumstead also received a campaign contribution of $500 from a senior Executive with GEO Group, just 9 days before Rep. Bumstead introduced his bill to privatize prisons in the state of Michigan. When asked about the contribution, Bumstead side-stepped, saying “they could have come to a fundraiser, I don’t know.” A donor making a contribution to a state representative who lives more than 1400 miles away from Bumstead’s district seems a bit sketchy, don’t you think?

Federal Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the youth prison in Mississippi “allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”

Let’s avoid making the same mistake in Michigan that was made in Mississippi. Allowing for-profit companies to take over our correctional facilities is wrong, especially when the legislators introducing these bills are the ones profiting. Nobody can put a price tag on public safety or peace of mind, and having a mistake the caliber of the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility is a mistake we can’t afford to make.


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