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Private Prison growth in Michigan will create more competition?

March 1, 2012

Earlier today, MLive posted an article from the Center for Michigan’s online blog the Bridge centered around the taxpayer cost for prisons in Michigan.

It is worth noting that MLive does not often utilize “independent” news sources, but then again the Bridge is not really independent, despite their claim of practicing “public interest journalism.” If one looks at who sits on their board (mostly people with power) and who gives them money (Amway, Meijer, DTE, etc), it would be hard to consider them an independent news source that will challenge economic or political power.

Understanding the framework in which the Bridge operates it is not surprising the direction they took in their article on prison funding in Michigan. The article begins by stating that Michigan legislators are considering sending as many as 43,000 current inmates to a private prison in order to reduce the State’s prison budget.

The article refers to, “Bills in the House (Bills 5174 and 5177) and Senate (Bills 877-878) would allow the Department of Corrections to send hundreds of adult inmates to a currently shuttered private prison in Baldwin. The Baldwin facility is owned by Florida-based GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. It has been shuttered for the past six years.”

The story does cite two Michigan legislators, Rep. Joe Haveman (R) and Sen. John Proos (R), both of whom support increased prison privatization. Rep. Haveman is quoted as saying that private prisons are a good choice because it creates, “more competition,” an attitude which sees the locking up of human beings as an opportunity to make money.

The article does not provide much background information on the Florida-based GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. Wackenhut Corrections Corp. was one of the first private prison entities in the US and has a long history of abuse and mismanagement. The GEO Group, Inc. operates 65 prison facilities in the US and 7 outside of the country.

The GEO Group, Inc. is a publicly traded company and since they operate to make money they are always working towards ways to maximize profits for their investors. For instance, in 2011, the GEO Group spent $220,000 lobbying members of Congress on issues of Homeland Security and Immigration. Since 2004, the private prison company has given over $1 million to candidates running for office,

The Bridge story that appeared on MLive does acknowledge some reports on prisoner abuse at GEO Group facilities, citing a Sentencing Project report. The article also notes that there is a growing group of private/public sector partners that are advocating for ways to reduce the costs to the State for prisons, but acknowledges that these costs are partly because of paying prison employee pensions.

Not surprising, a coalition of entities from the public and the private sector have their own coalition, The Michigan Corrections Reform Coalition, which the Center for Michigan is part of. This coalition appears to be designed to redirect public money into the private sector, under the guise that they want to save taxpayers money. Two West Michigan representatives of The Michigan Corrections Reform Coalition are Jeanne Engelhart (former President of the GR Chamber of Commerce) and Mike Jandernoa (former CEO of Perrigo).

The Bridge article that appeared on MLive did mention the Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending, which advocates for spending more money on prevention that incarceration. However, alternatives to incarceration are an issue that is not adequately dealt with, nor the Bridge article even address the growing prison abolitionist movement in the US.

In the final analysis the Bridge article fails to investigate beyond the superficial, does not make the reveal much information on the power behind this push for private prisons and more importantly, the writer accepts the private or public prison system without considering the possibility of prison abolition.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. bridge permalink
    March 2, 2012 6:30 pm

    Mlive actually has a partnership with Bridge Magazine:

  2. March 2, 2012 8:05 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. Why am I not surprised.

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