At the end of 2014, the Georgia had the ninth-highest incarceration rate in the U.S., 32 percent above that national average. In that same year, there were 52,949 adults that were in the prison system. To say that the state of Georgia has an incarceration problem is an understatement. The state is in dire need of criminal justice reform that reduces time for non-violent crimes, sets a level playing field and revamps probation practices. This would not only lower the rate of incarceration, but also lower the massive amount of taxpayer money used to fund these facilities.
But instead of finding a solution to these problems, Georgia legislators have decided to let the large prison populations work in the favor of for-profit private prison companies. Private prisons sound like a steal with their promises to take the burden off the state and taxpayers. The prisons claim to be more cost-effective and promise better services for inmates than those provided in state prisons. These claims could be not further from the truth.
Georgia currently bankrolls four private prisons; three are run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the other by the GEO Group (GEO). These private prisons end up costing the state $1.30 more per inmate per day compared to a state-run prison. In 2011, Georgia taxpayers spent $16,720.65 annually to keep an inmate in a private prison; meanwhile, the state was only paying $4,466 per student during 2011-2012 school year. They employ undertrained staff and pay them less than the state employees. These prisons also try to avoid taking inmates with medical issues, so they are not stuck with paying the bills. And on the occasion that they do have an inmate with medical needs, they most often do not provide adequate care, as in the case of Eddie Robinson, a Georgia man who lost his sight while in a private prison due to lack of medication.
There doesn’t seem to be a side positive to private prisons, so why does the state allow them? Apparently, CCA and GEO have deep pockets and teams of lobbyist ready to buy and woo Georgia legislators. These companies are raking in billions of dollars in revenue, so they cannot afford criminal justice reform in Georgia. Private prisons are run by greed. They are not interested in serving justice and rehabilitating — their only interest is profit. So as long as Georgia provides a constant stream of inmates, private prisons are here, ready to cash in.