Private Prisons Have an Incentive to Be for Mass Incarceration

There are many lobbying groups that are vilified by opponents. Oil companies and the pharmaceutical industry are probably two of the biggest in terms of both having massive influence in Washington D.C. and across the states and for being despised by the general public for that influence. The gun lobby is one that is despised by some, but that is really more dependent on your politics on that particular issue. There are, however, some groups that have influence through lobbying that manage to fly under the radar for the most part. Companies that run private prisons are an example of this.

The existence of private, for-profit prisons creates a perverse incentive structure for them to engage in lobbying efforts to increase the number of Americans who are incarcerated because, from their point of view, this is completely economically rational. After all, every business wants more customers since more customers means more money. The problem in this case is that society as a whole pays when private prison companies get more customers. We taxpayers have to pay for every prisoner’s incarceration as Bruce Karatz points out on About, and then we pay in the form of welfare and other social programs given how hard it is for someone with a record to get a job and a fresh start in their lives. Private prison companies lobbying to have more of our fellow Americans incarcerated should be at the top of everyone’s list of lobbies to be vilified.