Are Private Prisons A Form Of Human Trafficking?

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Photo courtesy of usprisonculture.com

Mark Ciavarella Jr., a former judge from Luzerne county Pennsylvania, is about to spend the next 28 years of his life trapped in a system he was selected to support.

According to a report via the Associated Press, Ciavarella was convicted of racketeering charges in 2011 for trading “Kids-for-cash.” Ciavarella, along with another judge, Michael Conahan, were involved with the owners and constructors of two for-profit juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2008.

During that time, Ciavarella unjustly sentenced almost 4,000 youths to extended stays in the centers for crimes as small as schoolyard fights. He went so far as to send one of the juvenile’s to detention for starting a MySpace page to make fun of a school principle.

While Ciavarella deserves the time he received, and probably more for ruining the lives of the young men and women he sent to rot behind jail walls, it speaks to the larger issue of why private prisons are simply a bad idea.

Back in 2011, the Sentencing Project released a report detailing the exploding growth of these for-profit criminal institutions. According to the report, the private prison industry grew by 80 percent from 1999-2010.

In 2010, two of this nation’s largest private prison entities, the GEO Group and CCA, made close to $3 billion dollars off of housing prisoners.

While the “Kids for cash” case isn’t directly related to the GEO Group or CCA, it does show a dangerous correlation: Private prisons represent a form of human trafficking.

Even though we live in a capitalistic society, it should be illegal to make money off of certain things, or at least morally reprehensible. Sending any human being to prison without true just cause to fill a prison bed is sickening. In the case of Ciavarella, he sent kids to jail as young as 10 years old, and in one case, a Social Security check that one teenager received due to the death of his father was garnished because his parent was unable to handle the cost of detention.

We all know that the American justice system has a moral imbalance. One person may receive a light sentence for a major crime, while another individual is sent to die in prison for a small offense. So far, we haven’t figured out a way to fix that cleft.

But what this case shows is why so many Americans, specifically minorities, do not trust our system of justice. For any judge to use his bench and power to send kids away to jail just so that he may line his pockets with greenbacks shows why private prisons should be ruled illegal and immoral.

It also gives a peek into why certain laws may be created to keep the health of the crib-to-prison pipeline juiced.

Somebody has to keep those beds filled, because if not, the GEO Group may not have the ability to throw Florida Governor Rick Scott’s next inauguration bash.

-JH

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