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Idaho to take back control of privately run state prison (theguardian.com)
87 points by mschuster91 1420 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments

Compare and contrast with Norway. Also from the Grauniad:


Includes this idea that has not been thought of in U.S. prison policy:

"...justice for society demands that people we release from prison should be less likely to cause further harm or distress to others, and better equipped to live as law-abiding citizens."

Note how the Norwegian system treated the Oslo bomber, by giving him a decent prison existence rather than treating him as the worst of the worst. This has denied him notoriety. He can't 'pay' for his crimes by being cruelly treated.

In Norway the re-offending rate is a fraction of anywhere else. So, for the Norwegian taxpayer, the deluxe facilities make financial sense.

It would take strong leadership and a generation to move the U.S. 'let them die by lethal injection' to something more like what there is in Norway, however, as Idaho illustrates, moves in the right direction can be made by individual states.

Those approaches have worked better in highly homogenous and culturally integrated societies.

I'm not saying the US shouldn't experiment with such approaches, it's my dearest wish that my country take advantage of Federalism and experiment at the state level more.

We shouldn't pretend we can appropriate every policy or approach every other country uses in a totally different context.

> Those approaches have worked better in highly homogenous and culturally integrated societies.

Translated into from dog-whistle into English, this means "a strong bloc of white Americans will not pay for social services, safety nets, or anything else if there is a risk that black people could benefit."

Just so we're entirely clear on the dynamic we're talking about.

Best counterexample is Canada, if you want to be more convincing and less inflammatory.

Good. The private prison industry has a financial interest in putting more and more people behind bars. To that end it lobbies legislatures to make more things a criminal offense and to have longer prison sentences.

This is counter-productive in a free and open society, which should have the goal of zero inmates. To THIS end prison management needs to be in the hands of those with no profit motive.

This along with for profit law enforcement activities(red light and speed cameras) should be abolished.

"The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."

-- Corrections Corporation of America SEC filing.

This is why I very much expect a "War on Piracy" or some other war to ignite domestically, if the war on drugs is ended. There are too many people profiting from arresting and putting others in prison, and they will fight to keep that status quo, one way or another. That, combined with NSA, and other agencies increasing desire for collecting all sorts of data domestically, on everyone, could make for a pretty terrifying future. Then they could just fish for crimes through spying, and then send the SWAT teams to people's homes.

I like to think that most people are moral (perhaps I'm foolish). If you take away the war on drugs, and perhaps other ~victimless crimes (prostitution, gambling), then there aren't going to be that many crimes left.

Who says crime doesn't pay? Sad...

In other words "Our customers may conclude that we offer a poor value for money and decide to stop buying our product."

It seems like you could keep financial penalties for traffic violations and avoid the corruption that seems to go with them by simply forwarding the revenue on elsewhere - infrastructure, health care, what-have-you. I suppose there may be jurisdictional issues there that I'm not familiar with though.

Separate subject though I suppose.

The red light/speed camera issue is not that one-sided. While there are a lot of those with questionable motives behind their setup, a couple of them actually are needed to reduce accidents.

I agree. However I wonder if they mask the real issue of bad design. Median barriers on busy roads, bike lanes that are separate, good pedestrian walkways and streets that make speeding hard and wrong feeling. Changing what is already built is hard, but once it is done it presumably not too different to maintaining normal infrastructure.

One of the more interesting books I've read recently: http://tomvanderbilt.com/traffic/the-book/

makes the assertion that just about everything done to make roads safer, like barriers, rumble strips, separate bike lines, traffic calming etc. gets negated by people driving faster because they have a greater sense of security.

"Negated" is certainly overstating things, traffic deaths have been going down for decades in the US and European countries, so the combination of safety features in roads and cars, driver education work well enough to offset any worsening of driver culture (alleged increase of speeding, more cell phone use, etc.)

You're making the assumption that speed causes accidents. It does not, or bullet trains would be crashing left and right. Lack of perception causes accidents, such as road designs where cars can make sudden turns with no additional lanes, lack of fences along roads near wildlife, etc. Freeways usually have the lowest number of accidents per mile driven despite far higher speed.

Where's your citations for your statements? You can't go making up facts without backing them up.

Bullet trains travel on a track, they do not travel freely with other bullet trains in crowded roadways. Pretty much anyone with a pulse can get a driver's licence and many people don't take driving seriously as "I am putting my life and other's at risk when I step into my car." Most people don't own a bullet train. The comparison is useless.

Plus speeding trains do kill when they go past the posted speed limit, which is posted for safety reasons, example: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/nyregion/metro-north-train... - by the way that train crashed on a Sunday, if it was a weekday there would have been hundreds dead as it is a major commuter line. Instead there was only 4 dead.

Here's some research that says speeding contributes to crashes. However, a car travelling much faster than the rest of the cars on the road are the most dangerous.





We have a problem when people post random speed limits without actually studying and taking into consideration safety.

Bullet trains are designed to go fast safely. When the parent talked about speeding they were talking about going past the posted speed limit, which for argument we will assume was posted for safety considerations. Of course, the faster one is travelling if there is an accident, the more deadly the accident becomes. This is simple physics. Bullet trains also have a speed limit, just a much higher one, and I don't know if they are physically built to travel past the safe max speed.

As it turns out, the very LAST thing you want is "a government that's run like a business".

Running a city or state for (ever growing) profit is a fast trail to hell.

Good. The incentives involved with private prisons are so obviously counter to the public good that it beggars belief that anyone would support them. Private prisons do not bear any costs of recidivism - they profit from it.

Yep, if we are going to have private prisons, they really need to pay on the basis of capacity and not actual inmate counts. That provides a direct incentive to keep inmate count down.

The second part of this is that public prisons suffer from the same problem as private prisons. Look at the prison worker's union and what money it spends on politics in California. It basically backs every legislation that will increase prisoner counts.

Its not a public or private issue, it is, as you pointed out, an incentive issue. Sadly, the public sector incentives are just as bad.

> public sector incentives are just as bad

That's not true. The amount of funds which goes in to this kind of lobbying matters.

With a private prison system you get not just the funds from prison worker's unions, but also those from the owners.

Take a look at the money spent by the unions, contractors, and then politicians repaying the favors in salary, pensions, and extended sentences in California. It is just as much money and worse from a public trust issue.

> Yep, if we are going to have private prisons, they really need to pay on the basis of capacity and not actual inmate counts. That provides a direct incentive to keep inmate count down.

Woah, interesting concept, I had never even thought of that. That in mind, I am very opposed to private prisons for reasons found scattered throughout this thread.

I don't see any real difference between public or private as neither is more noble in motives. Neither has been given the correct incentives, so I figure experiment with those we can fire (private) until we find the right incentive list. Paying for capacity is one way to incentivize a desire for fewer prisoners and won't work in a public setting.

I live in Idaho and I'm glad this is happening. I've noticed an interesting trend lately where libertarians are starting to take non-conservative and non-republican stances that are more in line with what progressives like me might align with.

Those living in the coastal blue states may not realize how conservative Idaho is. We have similar politics to Wyoming (Dick Cheney was elected to the US House of Reps there) but with more emphasis on ranching, timber and mining. There are small pockets of liberalism in Boise and Hailey. But for the most part there are no progressive politics here. Nearly all state votes toe the republican party line. So when a controversial topic comes up (global warming, alternative energy, healthcare, endangered species, conservation, sustainability, etc) we already know how the vote will fall and it can be disheartening.

For example I have never been able to participate in a presidential election (I still go to the polls for the popular vote though). I think people living in Austin, TX or Boulder, CO know what this is like. It's like South Park. But sometimes it becomes so obvious that a policy is failing that it crosses party lines and gets reformed.

It appears there's recent decision to go this direction for this specific prison/company but keep in mind this is probably not a sign of a sea change:

"Recently, board chairwoman Robin Sandy said she opposed the idea because she didn't want to grow state government."

If she's being quoted correctly, that means the chair of the state prison board has a rather, shall we say, flat idea of good policy, and would still put prisoner safety (and therefore several important constitutional principles), recidivism, respect for law and order, and possibly even cost effectiveness all below the idea that the state shouldn't do any more things itself instead of paying private parties to fulfill its obligations poorly.

Interesting, but not really HN material.

I hate to be the guy that copies the HN guidelines (just because it seems to get done so often), but it feels especially appropriate given your choice of the word "interesting".

> On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find INTERESTING. That includes more than hacking and startups.

(Capitalised emphasis added by me.)

This isn't very interesting though; one relatively minor state is closing a prison few of us have ever heard of because one bad actor screwed up. It's not even a useful political story, because such a minor detail is hardly even evidence of anything, let alone proof. The same story as a statistical analysis of nationwide trends would at least be somewhat interesting, this is just an invitation to vent political opinions.

For those excitedly piling on about how this proves how awful private prisons are, well, doesn't Abu Ghraib prove even moreso how awful government imprisonment can be? No, no it doesn't.

My point was that for the person saying it is interesting, they are literally stating why it belongs on HN (based on the official guidelines).

Whether or not it actually is interesting is another question, and a subjective one. Personally I see your points about this story specifically, but the flip side is that it creates debate on HN about the concept of private prisons, which at least has the potential to be of interest.

In this case its been a long, long story in Idaho. When CCA took over and built a prison near Boise the prison directors actually asked to be allowed to bid on running the prison since they felt that the state could do it cheaper than CCA. This was denied by the very Republican government. Slowly the attitude has been changing though, and recently the private prison had to admit to falsifying records after several inmates where very much harmed due to CCA's actions. The private prison is now nicknamed "Gladiator school."

I find this very interesting because its forcing the hand of a group of the staunchest supporters of privatization. When the very, very far edge moves toward the center its usually cause for curiosity. =)

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