Protecting Our Community

Private Prisons increase incarceration rates and sentences

220% Increase In Private Prison Inmates In Florida

The National Average is 32%

Private Prisons

We Can Ensure That:

  • Prisons Must Provide Fair Wages and Safe Work Environments

  • Violations in health, safety, and welfare Are Investigated

  • "Contract Leasing" - Prison Slave Labor - Is Put To An End

Private prisons in America have worked for centuries to perpetuate a cycle of systemic exploitation and oppression. While practicing “convict leasing”, or selling harshly underpaid labor to turn a profit, and providing inadequate facilities and staff[1], private prisons work under the guise of relieving overcrowding in government-run prisons. With Florida having one of the highest populations of inmates in private prisons[2], this is an issue that needs to be addressed. We are responsible for the safety and well-being of those in prison as well as those outside, and the general welfare of these inmates is chronically overlooked. The Commissioner of Agriculture's ability to conduct hearings, launch investigations, and provide recommendations that will mitigate injustices and bolster public health and safety.

 

Systematic Exploitation and Oppression

A “private prison” is a term given to privately-owned, for-profit prisons funded by the government to accommodate more inmates. The idea is that they would function like government-run prisons and rehabilitate prisoners while alleviating the stress on federal and state facilities[3]. However, the private prison industry is just that: an industry. While government-run prisons do not make a profit and are therefore incentivized to rehabilitate their population efficiently, the same does not apply to private prisons. The only goal of private prisons is to create revenue and to do that, they must maximize profit, and the incarcerated population, and minimize costs, such as adequate facilities, staff, and resources[4].

 

To maximize profit, private prisons do what they can to increase incarceration rates and sentence lengths. An example of this occurred in 2011 when a Pennsylvania judge was convicted of accepting money from private prisons in exchange for assigning harsher sentences to increase their profit[5]. With a financial motivation to imprison as many people as possible for as long as possible, breaches in justice and human rights are all too common. This is also seen in how private prisons cut costs: inadequate and inhumane facilities and staff[6]. In 2016, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates commented on the abundant lack of resources in private prisons, saying “They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources [...] they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.[7]” 

 

To fully understand the injustice of private prisons, it's necessary to understand their history. Private prisons in America have strong roots in slavery and work to continue the cycle of systemic racism and oppression.[8] During the 19th century, Black Americans who were born free were often captured and incarcerated in private prisons, as well as those who had escaped plantations and were caught. Later, after the Civil War, many plantations were converted into private prisons and used for “convict leasing”, where owners of private prisons would be paid to lease out their convicts for labor[9]. This was only further enabled by Jim Crow laws that impelled the rampant arrest of Black people for little to no criminal activity. This loophole that allowed for flagrant exploitation and oppression continues today, with a disproportionate non-White population in private prisons[10] and lower wages and training for jobs than in government-run prisons[11].

 

The inherent issues in private prisons are blatant, and all too prevalent in Florida. With 28 states still using private prisons[12], Florida is the state with the second-highest incarcerated population in private prisons, behind only Texas.[13] Unfortunately, this problem is only growing: Since 2000, the number of inmates in private prisons in the US has increased by 32%[14] and more than doubled in Florida, growing by 205% in the same time frame.[15] This issue is dire and we cannot allow our citizens to be subjected to the exploitative and unjust practices of private prisons any longer.

 

Private Prisons Rely on Agriculture

While the office of Agriculture Commissioner seems to have little to do with private prisons, the reality is that the private prison industry leans on the agricultural industry to bolster its profits. Agriculture is a labor-heavy field and requires large numbers of underpaid workers to maximize revenue. This is where private prisons come in, utilizing the aforementioned “convict leasing” to sell labor and make a profit from it.[16]

 

[1]  https://www.procon.org/headlines/private-prisons-top-3-pros-and-cons/

[2]  https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/private-prisons-united-states/

[3] https://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/12-2016/private_prisons.asp

[4] https://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/12-2016/private_prisons.asp

[5] https://daily.jstor.org/the-problem-with-privatizing-prisons/

[6] https://www.procon.org/headlines/private-prisons-top-3-pros-and-cons/

[7] https://cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/12-2016/private_prisons.asp

[8] https://www.procon.org/headlines/private-prisons-top-3-pros-and-cons/

[9] https://www.procon.org/headlines/private-prisons-top-3-pros-and-cons/

[10] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756061617300393

[11] https://www.procon.org/headlines/private-prisons-top-3-pros-and-cons/

[12] https://infotracer.com/resources/us-private-prisons-facts-statistics/

[13] https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/private-prisons-united-states/

[14] https://nicic.gov/private-prisons-united-states-2021

[15] https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/private-prisons-united-states/

[16] https://www.hcn.org/articles/agriculture-farmers-turn-to-prisons-labor-to-fill-labor-needs

Education

So, What Can We Do?!

Hearings on Private Prisons

Under Chapter 570.07(37) of the Florida Statutes, the office of the Agriculture Commissioner can conduct hearings and make recommendations concerning matters of the department if consumer safety and welfare are likely to be jeopardized by any consumer product or service. By paying inmates low wages and providing less training for important jobs than in government-run prisons, the products, and services that result from these jobs are going to be less likely to meet standards and more likely to put consumers at risk. Because of this, the Commissioner can ensure that private prisons provide fair wages and adequate training, and if that fails, can conduct hearings concerning private prisons. This will address the problems of poor wages, harsh working conditions, and inadequate training. 

 

Launching Investigations

Under Chapter 570.07(2a) of the Florida Statutes, the office of the Agriculture Commissioner is permitted to launch inspections for violations of public health, safety, and welfare. Many private prisons have reports of stark violations in all three of these points, and because of the overlap between agriculture and private prisons, these violations are under this office. The Department can launch inspections of private prisons in Florida to identify violations in health, safety, and welfare and remedy these as soon as possible. 

 

Chapter 507.07(2e) gives this office the use of trained personnel to conduct these inspections efficiently and thoroughly, making sure that no injustices are overlooked. This includes adequate staffing to ensure safety, facilities to ensure public health, and adequate rights for inmates to ensure wellbeing

 

A Double-Sided Investigation

These plans will tackle the problem from two ends: targeting injustices within the walls of private prisons will make sure that inmates have the safety, wellbeing, and guarantee of public health standards that Florida law ensures. Second, recommendations and hearings will make sure that unfair “convict leasing” practices that continue the cycle of systemic racism, oppression, and exploitation come to an end

 

These hearings will also bring up witness statements and more information concerning the problems behind private prisons and act as a stepping stone for more in-depth investigations in this department and others.