• yourjizzx cum
  • Current Issues

    Does the Privatization Debate Obscure More Important Questions About Corrections in Michigan?

    Over the last month Michigan Policy Network has published a series of articles looking at privatization in Michigan’s prisons, counties that use private probation services for misdemeanor offenders, and private services that prisoners’ families pay for directly. The central debate usually implicit in media coverage of these issues is that of “public versus private.” That’s certainly the way the Michigan corrections workers’ union frames it.

    But does this debate actually obscure other, more important questions about corrections in Michigan?

    .

    There are important differences between public corrections workers and private corrections-related business. Some people who study the issue claim that private companies have more incentives to cut corners which result in human rights abuses and generate hidden costs. Others are concerned that private contractors fundamentally alter the balance of power in government.

    But according to Sharon Dolovich, the director of UCLA’s Prison Law & Policy Program, “The most troubling features of our penal institutions may be those that public and private have in common.”

    #1: Both the corrections union and private corrections companies benefit from high rates of incarceration

    Critics of the private prison industry often argue that the private prison industry puts undue pressure on politicians to support tough sentencing rules. (Books like “Punishment for Sale: Private Prisons, Big Business, and the Incarceration Binge” and “Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag” make such arguments).

    However, in a Stanford Law Review article, lawyer and economist Alexander Volokh argues it’s unlikely that privatization would create significantly more pressure for enacting pro-incarceration policies—because workers unions are already exerting pressure to promote such policies. “Against this background, adding the ‘extra voice’ of the private sector will not necessarily increase either the amount of industry-increasing advocacy or its effectiveness,” he writes.

    His argument makes sense. The livelihoods of both public corrections workers and private corrections companies depend on jails and prisons staying full. In Michigan, legislators representing communities where prisons play an important role in the local economy have gone so far as to propose legislation requiring the state to study the economic impact of proposed prison closures before going through with them; and representatives of Michigan communities that housed private prisons in the past have expressed hope that these facilities will reopen, bringing jobs and increased economic activity with them.

    #2: Both the corrections union and private corrections companies spend money on lobbying and campaign contributions in Michigan to promote their interests

    Aramark

    GEO Group

    Corizon

    Jpay

    PCS

    MCO (union)

    Lobbying

    $579,918.61

    $309,862.25

    $72,000.00

    $5,040.00

    $6,000.00

    $29,679.60

    Campaign Contributions

    $20,000.00

    $0.00

    $0.00

    $0.00

    $0.00

    $2,000.00

    Total (all active years)

    $309,862.25

    $309,862.25

    $72,000.00

    $5,040.00

    $6,000.00

    $31,679.60

    Active years

    2004 - 2014

    2001 - 2014

    2012 - 2014

    2012

    2011

    2001 - 2014

    Table and graph by Abram Huyser-Honig. Data source: State of Michigan Lobby Disclosure and Campaign Finance Disclosure databases.

    The table above, which show publicly available data accessed through the State of Michigan’s lobby and campaign finance disclosure websites, shows that over the last decade private corrections-related companies and the Michigan Corrections Organization (the union representing around 7,000 of the state’s corrections workers) have spent over a million dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions in state.

    This is almost surely not the whole story. For example, the data above suggest that the union is far outspent by private companies. But MCO is a local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU also represents other public employees, healthcare workers, and several other labor sectors in Michigan), and according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, in just the last two years the SEIU Community Alliance SuperPAC spent $995,507 on campaign contributions.

    The proliferation of PACs and SuperPACs make it hard to know the extent to which other groups representing both public and private interests in the state’s corrections system are spending on campaigns.

    Deeper Issues?

    According to UCLA’s Dolovich, focus on the public-private debate “can lead us to miss altogether the more likely possibility that neither alternative is satisfactory or even adequate. Instead, what is most urgently needed may not be a change in the existing management structure, but meaningful reform of the prison system in general.”

    Michigan prison-reform advocates Rich and Carol Rienstra echo those sentiments. “We get sucked into these arguments of ‘is this option better than the other.’ But the thing is, neither option is good,” says Rich.

    He says something deeper is wrong with the status quo of corrections in Michigan and throughout the U.S.; Citizens for Prison Reform, an advocacy group he’s involved with, works to promote more humane treatment of prisoners.

    Advocacy groups say deeper reforms to Michigan’s corrections system might include granting parole sooner and more often, repealing “truth in sentencing,” and re-thinking how minor drug offenses are handled.

    But Rich Rienstra says the profit motive of many key actors in the corrections sector is antithetical to such reforms. “If you could trace all the private profit involved in the correctional system it would boggle your mind,” he said in an interview. He said he wished more Michiganders would see prisons, and prisoners, the way Garret Heyns, who was director of Michigan corrections in the 1950s and was the grandfather of current MDOC director Dan Heyns, did. The senior Heyns believed that “criminals are individuals about whom concern should be felt for betterment, rather than punishment,” and that relying on probation and small prisons were preferable to large prisons.

    Sources

    “Garret Heyns Speaks to Women’s Literary Club.” Ludington Daily News, March 2, 1949. Vol. 59, No. 99, p. 2. Ludington, Michigan.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=110&dat=19490302&id=w1pOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1zsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6920,2704562

    “Top 150 Michigan State PACs, 2014 Cycle.” Michigan Campaign Finance Network, 10/29/2014

    http://www.mcfn.org/uploads/documents/PAC150_Oct14.pdf

    Anderson, Lucas. “Kicking the National Habit: The Legal and Policy Arguments for Abolishing Private Prison Contracts.” Public Contract Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Fall 2009), pp. 113-139

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/25755754

    Dolovich, Sharon. “How Privatization Thinks.” UCLA School of Law Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper Series, Research Paper No. 07-07, 2007

    http://ssrn.com/abstract=970629

    Harrison, Amanda. “State Rep: Dept. of Corrections privatization bid is a sham.” CMU Public Radio News, March 20, 2013. http://news.cmich.edu/wcmu_news/2013/03/state-rep-dept-of-corrections.html

    McHugh, Jack. “Prisons Not an 'Economic Development' Program.” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, April 26, 2012. http://www.mackinac.org/16826

    Michael, Jon D. “Privatization's Pretensions,” The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 77, No. 2 (Spring 2010), pp. 717-780

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/20722464

    State of Michigan, Campaign Finance Disclosure Database:

    http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1633_8723---,00.html

    State of Michigan, Lobby Disclosure Database:

    http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1633_11945---,00.html

    Volokh, Alexander. “Privatization and the Law and Economics of Political Advocacy,” Stanford Law Review, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Feb., 2008), pp. 1197-1253

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/40040410

    Home
    Agriculture
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Commerce & Regulation
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Criminal Justice
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    In The Courts
    Timeline
    Employment
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Great Lakes & Recreation
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Energy and Environment
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Health Care
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    K-12 Education
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Morality and Family
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Political Reform
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Social Services & Seniors
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    State Budget
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Taxes
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Transportation
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline
    Urban Affairs
    Policy Briefs
    Current Issues
    National Context
    Interviews
    Blog
    Most Popular Posts
    Timeline

    About Us

    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

    Read more about us...

    Sponsors

    Michigan State University    Department of Political Science 
     College of Communication Arts & Sciences    James Madison College
     College of Social Science    University Outreach and Engagement

     

    The thoughts, opinions, and positions represented herein are solely those of the participating students and in no way represent an official position or policy recommendation of Michigan State University.

    Our sponsors...

    Meet your Policy Fellow: Johanna Jelenek

    Johanna Jelenek is Criminal Justice policy fellow. She is a first-year student in Communications at Michigan State University.