For the past few weeks the Tuft’s GlobeMed chapter has discussed the purpose of prisons in the United States and the current problems with the system. Prisons in the United States are used as a place of punishment that is intended to deliver justice and deter people from committing crimes. They are also supposed to keep dangerous people away from society and rehabilitate people back into society. The actual system of prisons themselves, however, is problematic and is injust for certain vulnerable populations. During last week’s ghU we discussed the differences between public and private prisons and the implications of those differences for the lives of prisoners. Public prisons are state operated and funded by tax money, whereas private prisons are facilities run by private prison corporations whose services are contracted out by state governments.
Public prisons have an incentive to keep recidivism rates low and therefore are more likely to provide rehabilitation services. The majority of incarcerated people are housed in public prisons, however black males and younger inmates are more likely to be housed in private prisons. This is because private prisons are for-profit companies that use the labor of the inmates to make money. They also focus on reducing the cost of housing prisoners to maximize their profits, which means reducing access to health care, not providing rehabilitation services, reducing the quality of food, and withholding basic necessities. These people are not treated as people, but instead as commodities of a private company. Reducing the cost of housing prisoners increases recidivism rates, creates a greater risk of violence, and increases the spread of disease in prisons.