September 20, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Prison-Industrial Complex Watch: Prison Bed Quotas Give Lawmakers No Incentive To Reform Sentencing
As if the very existence of for-profit prisons wasn’t bad enough, we now learn that these companies have negotiated prison bed quotas. These quotas require 60%, and sometimes as high as 100% of beds to be filled, otherwise the state pays prisons for the unused beds.
Prison Quotas Push Lawmakers To Fill Beds, Derail Reform: The prison bed guarantees range between minimums of 70 percent occupancy in a California prison to 100 percent occupancy requirements at some Arizona prisons. Most of the contracts had language mandating that at least 90 percent of prison beds be filled.
Experts argue that such requirements create an incentive for policymakers to focus on filling empty prison beds, as opposed to pursuing long-term policy changes, such as sentencing reform, that could significantly reduce prison populations. In short, many states are effectively obligated to continue to incarcerate people regardless of crime rates and public safety needs, or otherwise hand over taxpayer dollars in order to satisfy private profit-making companies.
Leave it to America to come up with a for-profit prison system that rewards companies when lawmakers pass laws mandating tougher sentences. At a time when we should be relaxing sentences due to America’s burgeoning prison population, lawmakers have painted themselves into a legislative corner.