For Profit Prisons?! Not good for people of color...

October 27th 2014

Matthew Segal

People of color, especially young men, are far more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. They are also given harsher sentences, usually about 20% longer than the sentences for white men who have committed similar offenses. A new study by a UC-Berkley graduate has found that people of color are also far more likely to be sent to for-profit prisons instead of those run by the state or government.

For profit prisons have a financial obligation to improve the bottom line for their shareholders. They are more interested in housing young, healthy people over older, sicker people who require more expensive medical care. And since the war on drugs has disproportionately sent thousands of people of color to jail, most younger inmates-with lower medical bills-are African-American or Latino.

This will have a long-lasting impact on minority communities given that private prisons have higher rates of violence, recidivism, and have worse track records on providing educational programming and health care.

Essentially, people of color are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be given a harsh sentence, and then more likely to be sent to a prison that focuses more on the bottom line than on their correction. Drawing the war on drugs to a close is a good first step in addressing the overflow of young people of color into the prison system, but it’s only a small piece of the solution.

To make a bigger impact, we need to look at how the current system incentivizes for-profit prisons to house people of color in poor conditions.

This story was cross-posted on OurTime.org.